Sunday, 27 November 2016

Turkish teachers urgently need our financial support

URGENT ACTION APPEAL - TURKEY: Request for action and financial solidarity 

Today, (Sunday November 27) a congress of the Turkish teachers' trade union EĞITIM-SEN is meeting to discuss how to respond to the attacks on its members. In particular, they are voting on an emergency increase in subscription rates to help support their members who have lost their income because of victimisation by their Government. Trade unionists internationally can - and must - help them too!


Last month, under the guise of a new Presidential emergency decree, over 10,000 public sector employees, including around 800 members of EĞITIM-SEN, were permanently dismissed from their jobs. Over 50,000 more are temporarily suspended from their work. 

As was explained at an emergency meeting held in Ankara the day before, President Erdogan claims these dismissals and suspensions are to combat the threat of 'terrorism' after the failed July coup. They are nothing of the sort. In reality, his increasingly dictatorial regime is using the State of Emergency to launch a 'counter-coup', labelling a 'terrorist' anybody who opposes his regime.

The meeting in Ankara was attended by representatives from a range of Turkish political parties and international trade unions, including myself for the NUT, as well as some of the dismissed colleagues who had travelled there from across the country.

We heard Kamuran Karaca, President of EĞITIM-SEN explain that the Government’s actions "are a huge lie. We do not support any coup or violent attacks. The attacks on our union are not for the reasons given. We know why we are targeted, because we stand for secular free education, for democratic principles and peace, because we won't accept this 'new Turkey' ".

Trade unionists, journalists, elected MPs and Mayors have been detained. Newspapers and media channels have been closed down.  

Trade unionists face some of the worst attacks. As the President of the KESK trade union federation explained to the international trade union delegates later (from the Education International, OLME (Greece), GEW (Germany) and the NUT), the suspensions and dismissals could yet herald even greater repression against trade unions in Turkey. The sackings and suspensions of union activists that have already taken place are meant to intimidate workers as a whole into quietly accepting further attacks to come, for example with the 2017 Budget expecting to mean further cuts to living standards.

I spoke to bring solidarity greetings on behalf of the NUT, recognising the critical role trade unions can play in building united struggle against attempts to divide-and-rule, and promising to publicise their struggle and provide concrete support.

There are many concrete steps we can all take to make that solidarity a reality, including protest letters and rallies but also, and urgently, providing financial support too. 

Around 800 EĞITIM-SEN members are suddenly faced with no income to support themselves and their families. Kamuran explained that the Union needs to raise about 2000 TL a month for each dismissed member. The Congress would be asked to support an increase in subs from 17 to 25 TL a month - nearly a 50% increase.

However, we can't allow our teacher colleagues in Turkey to shoulder this burden alone. I hope that national unions, local associations and individual colleagues will respond to the international appeal that has been launched through Education International and the ETUCE.

The appeal letter sent out by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary asks affiliates to:
1.      Send protest letters to the Turkish government, Turkish embassy in your country and your country’s embassy in Turkey in order to demonstrate that the international education community has not turned a blind eye to the Turkish authorities’ biased, undemocratic and discriminatory actions, and will continue to monitor the situation in the country.
2.      Organise demonstrations in front of the Embassy of Turkey in your country to raise awareness and promote trade union and human rights.
3.      Urge your Government to make all necessary efforts to put an end to endless arbitrary dismissals, investigations and arrests of Turkish education staff, and to recall that the Turkish government has committed itself to promoting freedom of expression, free speech and basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
4.      Demonstrate financial solidarity with EĞITIM-SEN by making a contribution to the EI Solidarity Fund:   
IBAN: BE05 3101 0061 7075
SWIFT/BIC: BBRUBEBB
Please indicate “UAA Egitim Sen” in communication.
Your contribution will ensure that legal assistance to Turkish education personnel in need can be provided sustainably via EĞITIM-SEN.

I will be reporting back to the National Union from my visit and to ask that we appeal for financial donations from across the NUT - and other TUC affiliates - to send to the EI so that they can be sent on to Egitim Sen for assistance as indicated above.
 
Let's build that real international solidarity !

Friday, 4 November 2016

School staff, parents and governors rally in London on 17 November to oppose school cuts


 
London schools face losses of over £600 million 

Today, in a separate press release (1), the NUT and ATL are announcing the launch of schoolcuts.org.uk  (2) – an interactive map of England’s schools which shows the likely effect on every school of plans to redistribute the existing funding between schools in England. 

Those calculations indicate that London’s schools will be particularly badly hit if the Government maintains its plans to shift the already inadequate overall school funding around the country:

•             In London, we anticipate real terms cuts of 16% in Southwark, Lambeth and Hackney and of 15% in Haringey and Kensington & Chelsea.

•             Justine Greening’s own constituency of Putney should expect a 13% loss, or £740 per pupil. Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency (Islington North) faces a 10% loss or £577 per pupil.

•             Across the capital as a whole, the predicted real terms losses to school budgets total more than £600 million, equivalent to the loss of over 16,000 teachers.

•             Almost all (99%) of London’s schools could face budget cuts in real terms over the next four years.  One in eight London schools stands to lose over £1,000 per pupil from their budgets.


NUT holding London rally and demonstration on 17 November


School cuts of this magnitude will have a devastating effect on London’s schools. That’s why the NUT is calling a rally and demonstration on the evening of Thursday 17 November. Taking place in Westminster just a week before the Chancellor is announcing his autumn statement, our march is being called to make sure our ‘Invest, Don’t Cut’ message is clearly heard in Westminster.


Event details:

Demonstration assembling at 17:00 in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street.

March past Parliament and Department of Education to rally in Emmanuel Centre, SW1P 3DW.

Indoor Rally from 18:30. Speakers include Kevin Courtney (NUT General Secretary) and Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Labour Party).


London NUT calls on the Government to invest in education

As was confirmed in a Parliamentary answer this week (3), some schools are already facing severe budget difficulties. The NUT and ATL’s budget predictions indicate that many more schools will face a funding crisis, particularly in London, unless the Government acts urgently to inject additional funding.


Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers:

“No head teacher should be put in the position of increasing class sizes, leaving building repairs undone or cutting staff and resources simply to balance the books. Nor should any parent accept this for their child. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We can and we should be funding our schools properly.”


Martin Powell-Davies, London Regional Secretary, National Union of Teachers:

“We invite parents, governors and support staff to join teachers at our rally and call on the Government to invest in children’s future by increasing the overall funding for schools. If the Government fails to act, and instead simply seeks to redistribute an insufficient total budget, the consequences will be devastating, particularly in London.”  


Notes:



2)            http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk/#/
The website enables users to see precisely how each individual school could be affected in real terms by the Government’s intention to implement a new funding formula for schools alongside real terms cuts to funding per pupil and cost increases being imposed by the Government.
By entering a post code on the website homepage, visitors can see how all the schools in that area are likely to fare between now and 2020 and how that estimated funding loss equates into numbers of teacher posts.

The formula used in the website is based on the Government’s own spending plans and school data, Institute for Fiscal Studies projections for the cost of inflation and other cost increases, and the new funding formula proposed by the influential f40 campaign group of local authorities.


3)            ‘Schools in debt as funding gap bites’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37860725

              

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Greening forced to take the 'forced' out of academisation !

This afternoon, Education Secretary Justine Greening sneaked out a Ministerial Statement containing the news that the 'Education for All' Bill has been shelved. This is a real victory for all those who have been campaigning to force the Tories into retreat over 'forced academisation'.
 
Rallying against forced academisation, London, March 2016

Above all, the announcement means that the plan to force all schools “in underperforming or unviable local authorities” to convert to academy status has been ditched. Another noteworthy result of Greening's announcement is that the plan to scrap Qualified Teacher Status appears to have been scrapped as well.

This latest academy U-turn, coming on top of the initial Nicky Morgan 'U-turn' - when the previous Minister abandoned plans for total forced academisation of every maintained school - is a significant retreat for a Government that had set out with the clear intention of forcing through complete academisation of state education in England.

There is more than one reason for Greening's announcement. It certainly reflects unhappiness inside her own Party from Conservative councillors who did not want to see oversight of local education taken away from their administrations. However, it is also a result of continuing academy scandals, ever-growing critical research and ongoing anti-academy campaigning - including the NUT national strike on July 5 - which have made it harder and harder for the Tories to seriously argue for the educational benefits of enforcing academisation.

Of course, a confident Government doesn't step back faced with mere 'facts'. The Tories' ideological commitment to dismantling elected local authorities and allowing private hands to take hold of our public services remains intact. However, this is a divided and uncertain Government which is at least partly aware of the deep-seated opposition to its project to inflict  further cuts, privatisation and inequality on the electorate. That's why it has decided it is best to take a different route to its intended goal.

Regrettably, Government academisation plans have too often found willing helpers inside Local Authorities, including some Labour administrations. A number of Councils, as well as some Dioceses, are still putting together plans to set up their own Multi-Academy Trusts, arguing falsely that Government proposals give them no choice. Greening's announcement should make it even clearer that they absolutely do have a choice!  Any decision to go ahead with encouraging academisation, despite the latest U-turn,  would be a dereliction of educational duty, and one which  would have to be fought determinedly by parents and staff.

Of course, there will still be ways for the Government to encourage further 'voluntary' academisation, not least by continuing to insist that any new schools that open in areas of pupil place shortage should be 'free school' academies. Having seen the Government forced into a U-turn on forced academisation, Local Authorities - and the Labour front-bench - must press home their advantage and demand that this 'free school presumption' is ditched. Instead, Local Authorities should be given both the legal powers and the funding necessary to open new maintained schools as part of a properly planned system of local place-planning and school admissions. 

Of course, it is precisely the issue of school admissions that Greening now wants to champion as her new way to divide-and-rule in education. She is set on trying to use selection, in particular by increasing the number of grammar schools, as a way to appeal to the self-interest of those parents who think their child would be better served by a 'selective' education. Of course, the reality is that most children will lose out.

Grammar schools inevitably only educate a selected minority, largely a middle-class minority as these figures from the Mirror clearly demonstrate:


Just as with Morgan's academy policy, Greening's grammar school policy will also meet firm opposition, including from some within the Conservative party. A section of the Tories still see the need for a more widely educated workforce rather than accepting there should be a narrowing of education provision through selection. Once again, the educational evidence will also be stacked against grammar schools. (See, for example, Henry Stewart's '11 myths').

The question, once again, is whether the Government can get away with their attacks. As with academies, parents, campaigners and trade unions must continue to mount firm opposition. Happily, it would seem that, under a Jeremy Corbyn leadership that calls for 'education not segregation', campaigners will also be given support from the Labour front bench.

There will be voices within Government that will demand that austerity has to be imposed, and that means further cutting school spending and restricting decent education to a selected few. They are certainly the same voices demanding that teachers' pay rises remain restricted to an average 1% overall - but with some getting no increase at all. That's why the NUT rallies against spending cuts to take place before the Autumn Statement in London (17 Nov), Manchester (12 Nov) and Birmingham (26 Nov) are vitally important to keep up the pressure on the Government.


Those who understand the need for decent education for all are already worried that the continued attacks on teachers and schools are threatening future educational prospects. A recent parliamentary answer confirmed that 30% of those qualifying in 2010 had already quit teaching by 2015. However, the crisis in teacher morale and retention cannot be addressed without also addressing excessive workload, inadequate funding and the regime of school accountability.

We still face a Government determined to bully schools and staff into doing 'more for less' while imposing greater inequality on schools and our communities. However, we should take heart from today's news. Greening's new 'academy U-turn' shows that determined campaigning could defeat this uncertain Government's planned attacks.

Friday, 14 October 2016

EPI Workload Report - the evidence is clear, it's time to act on it


“Many teachers in England work long hours. The analysis in this report highlights that this should be a cause for concern for professional development and teaching quality as well as for the wellbeing of teachers themselves”. ( EPI Report 2016) 

The latest report from the Education Policy Institute has provided yet more headlines – and further statistics - about the long working hours of England’s teachers, particularly the amount of time spent on non-teaching tasks. The Report provides useful confirmation of the now established fact that workload is driving teachers out of the profession. However, I do not believe that some of the conclusions that have been mooted in the press following its release – notably that multi-academy trusts or larger class sizes might provide a solution to teacher workload – are justified by the statistical evidence reported.

The evidence has been taken from the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), which gathered responses from over 100,000 secondary school teachers in 36 different jurisdictions internationally. That’s a sizeable sample, although it’s worth noting that the results for England are based on a relatively small sample of 2,496 Key Stage 3 classroom teachers “from 154 schools, academies and maintained schools of the various types, and a small number of independent schools”.


As the Report’s Appendix on Methodology itself states “the noise inherent in a snapshot of one week's hours, some small clusters of teachers, and a low number of schools sampled relative to the heterogeneity in secondary school teachers” means that some of the Report’s attempts to draw correlations between working hours and various school and teacher types cannot be entirely reliable. In some cases, for example when looking at the link between workload and the experience of their headteacher, then the Report itself agrees there is no clear correlation. There are also some significant differences between the figures given for the total hours worked and the sum of the times listed for the different activities separately – a “measurement error” acknowledged in the report.


Even with that statistical caution noted, the analysis carried out by Peter Sullen, a former Head of the Teachers and Teaching Analysis Team at the DfE, nevertheless clearly confirms the poor pay and working conditions of teachers in England compared to most other developed countries.
Here are some key findings:

Overall Working Hours – England has some of the longest hours in the world


Full time teachers in England reported working, on average, 48.2 hours a week, compared to the average elsewhere of 40.6 hours. A fifth of teachers reported working 60 hours or more.


Only teachers in Japan and Alberta reported longer average working hours than England. That puts England ranked third highest out of the 36 jurisdictions. 

 
A footnote to the Report points out the weakness in the current Conditions Document that avoids a proper limit on overall hours: “England’s statutory work time for teachers (at least applying to teachers in maintained schools) is to be available for 1265 hours across 195 days, which works out at just six and a half hours per day, to be augmented with additional hours “as necessary”. Doesn’t that open-ended wording need replacing with a specific legal limit on overall working hours?


Over half of teachers think their workload is ‘unmanageable’


13% ‘strongly agreed’ and 38% ‘agreed’ with the statement “My workload is unmanageable”. Only 3 per cent strongly disagreed.


The low morale of those who strongly agreed that their workload is unmanageable is shown by the 42% who disagreed that “the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages” and over 50% who agreed that “I would like to change to another school if that were possible”.


The Report rightly points to other recent research by the National Foundation for Education Research (2016) which found workload to be “at the centre” of why some interviewed teachers were considering leaving teaching and that in a recent survey for the Guardian one in five teachers claimed they intended to leave the profession because they felt overworked.


It also shows that workload is a significant barrier to accessing professional development. 60 per cent of teachers in England agreed with that statement, the seventh highest ranking in the international comparison.


The Report’s finding that “other jurisdictions, including some which perform consistently highly in international rankings, appear able to avoid [long working hours], and in England teachers do not work much longer hours in outstanding schools” is also worth noting. Long working hours are driving down morale but not improving education! 


 
It’s not only workload, pay levels are poor as well


As well as providing data on workload, the Report also confirms that England’s teachers receive lower pay than similarly educated workers in the wider economy. It does, however, point out that this is generally repeated internationally.


Teachers know this is the case. As many as 73 per cent of teachers in England surveyed in TALIS agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “teachers are underpaid compared to other qualified professionals with similar levels of responsibility”. The Report adds that the School Teachers’ Review Body 2016 pointed out that the relative pay of classroom teachers compared to other graduate professionals has worsened since “so it is unlikely that the situation has improved”.


However, as well as relatively lower pay, “in England the ratio between teachers’ working hours and the average for the whole economy is 17 per cent greater than the ratio in the other countries assessed”. So, overall, England has perhaps the worst overall combination of long hours and low pay compared to similar graduate professionals.


Gender Inequality


There is evidence in the Report that long hours are particularly discriminating against women teachers. The Report includes tables showing that, in general, more women reported their workload as being unmanageable than men.


The Report observes that “female teachers with children tend to work fewer hours; where that is incompatible with the teaching jobs available, some may simply be unable to teach. Part-time working is not as widespread as might be expected for a disproportionately female workforce. This might explain why, according to TALIS data, only 2.9 per cent of teachers in England are living with children but not as a couple, whereas 4.1 per cent of all people in employment aged 16 to 64 were lone parents in 2013 according to the Office for National Statistics” and that “some potentially outstanding teachers will be unable to join or remain in the profession because of family circumstances”


It’s non-teaching activities that take up the time


The Report confirms what teachers in England have long complained about themselves. The time that teachers in England spend teaching lessons is exactly the 20 hour a week average. It is time spent on other tasks which add up to such a high overall workload.


Interestingly, there’s no one particular activity that stands out particularly starkly. Out of the 36 areas, England’s teachers recorded 6th longest time on marking, 11th on planning, 8th on general administration. It’s the combination of these additional hours that adds up to the third highest ranking overall. 



There’s just one area where England ranked particularly low down the international league table of hours - student counselling. Teachers don’t have time for themselves and their families but neither do students get the individual support they need.

The Report concludes that therefore the “DfE are right to focus on planning, marking, and administrative issues” in their advice on workload issues.

Contradictory conclusions – don’t cut planning time, increase class sizes?


DfE advice alone won’t tackle the workload crisis. It needs backing up with concrete agreements to limit workload, and resources to recruit additional teaching staff. Unfortunately, when it comes to concrete actions, the Report starts to draw contradictory conclusions.


It’s keen to point out that the 24 minutes spent by England’s teachers on planning per one hour lesson time is in line with the average of 22 (compared with 35 minutes in Shanghai but just 14 minutes in Finland) and that “the focus should be on making better use of lesson planning time rather than reducing the overall amount”.


The Report suggests further research is needed into the use of ICT to improve on planning and other workload issues. However, in practice, teachers know that ICT can also increase workload demands if used to generate additional teacher tasks.


Particularly worrying is a Schools Week report which leads with the claim that the Report shows that “teachers will struggle to reduce their workload unless schools increase their class sizes”. I haven’t found any such firm conclusion in the Report, nor the evidence to back up this claim. What it does say is that “With pupil numbers in secondary schools set to increase, it is unlikely that teaching timetables can be reduced without an increase in class sizes should teacher numbers not keep pace”. That’s self-evidently true – the solution is to recruit and retain more staff.


There is an inconclusive discussion about pupil teacher ratios in Shanghai which nevertheless does suggest that its model of higher class sizes could be followed in order to “create smaller teaching timetables for each teacher”. However, the Report tempers this with the observation that “replicating greatly increased classes in England might be a particular challenge given the diversity in the mainstream pupil population discussed above” but does add that “this may be an area for further consideration. This is particularly the case if overall teacher supply proves difficult to maintain”.


Any such discussion needs to remember a few key points:

  • Yes, alongside cutting back on the volume of non-teaching tasks, reducing teacher loadings to provide increased planning, preparation and assessment time could significantly address workload. But more PPA is best delivered by recruiting more teachers. That means more funding for schools – not less as under this Government.
  • Larger class sizes mean more marking and preparation and so higher workload. They also mean less time for each child in that class and a poorer education.
  • Lastly, the Report fails to include the statistics which shows that class sizes in England are already some of the highest in the developed world

Most teachers blame “the accountability system” of Ofsted and league tables  

The Report displays data suggesting that there is limited correlation between longer working hours and the likelihood of performance dismissal or blocking pay progression. However, it also acknowledges that 43% of those surveyed agreed that consistent underperformance would lead either to dismissal or material sanctions in their school.

It also acknowledges that “teachers in England associate external accountability with work pressures”. In fact as many as 37% ‘disagreed’ with the statement “The accountability system does not add significantly to the pressure of the job”. Another 48% ‘strongly disagreed’. That’s 85% of all of the respondents! Similarly, 50% ‘disagreed’ and 27% ‘strongly disagreed’ that “the accountability system does not add significantly to my workload”.

 
Once again, the Report throws in a contradictory conclusion that: “the DfE should monitor the implementation of new pay freedoms, which offer an opportunity to achieve a better balance in relative pay across a teacher’s career”. This is an assertion based on a belief in performance-pay systems which is not backed up by evidence. Performance-pay ‘freedoms’, particularly in the context of a budget squeeze, will mean worse, not better, pay. It will also risk more inequality and an increasing fear of the “accountability” regime.


However, that conclusion is balanced by a warning that “it is plausible that a ‘high-stakes’ approach to raising performance has created a long-hours culture in a highly competitive school system. If the focus of that competition is on short-term outcomes, what is individually rational for teachers, department heads and head teachers may ultimately not be constructive for pupil outcomes in the long term. That is not to say that accountability-driven improvement is inappropriate, but that the risks for long-term teacher development should be understood and acted upon by policy makers, even in a school-led system. This report highlights that more needs to be done in order to sustain the teaching workforce and enable it to flourish”.


Ofsted, league tables and performance pay are all adding to workload pressures and low morale. They must be tackled as part of tackling the teacher workload scandal.


The consequences – Teacher turnover and a lack of experienced colleagues


The Report correctly spells out the consequence of high workload, relatively low pay and poor morale. Here are just a few key quotes:

  • “We have one of the youngest and least experienced teaching workforces in the developed world”
  • “England had one of the fastest reductions in the proportion of teachers aged over 50 in secondary education between 2005 and 2014”
  • “England has one of the highest proportions of teachers under 30, and only 48 per cent of its teachers have more than ten years’ experience compared with an average of 64 per cent across jurisdictions”
  • “The relatively young teaching workforce in England may therefore be a signal that teachers are experiencing ‘burn-out’, before they even step in to leadership roles”.
  • “An obvious implication of high rates of turnover, and short teaching careers, is that the substantial resources invested in initial teaching training will involve significant amounts of waste. If those resources could be allocated better to the teachers who stay for longer, through raising the levels of effective CPD undertaken later in careers, overall teaching quality might be raised and more might stay”.


Encouraging MATs – another ideological conclusion not based on evidence

For a body that states it prides itself on evidence, it is disappointing to see yet another ideologically driven conclusion in the Report which is not backed up by the data.

It states that “We find some evidence to suggest teachers in larger schools tend to work slightly fewer hours. Creating economies of scale through multi-academy trust arrangements or school capital policy may help to ease teacher workload”


First of all, the evidence is statistically unclear. As the Report admits “further work is needed to identify accurately the magnitude of the school size effect and its causes given the modest number of schools included in the survey”. Secondly, school size does not necessarily relate to an ‘economy of scale’ created by a multi academy trust. Of course, the greatest ‘economies of scale’ could be made by having all schools in a locality being accountable to democratically run Local Authorities.


To make such claims about MATs, evidence would need to be provided of lower working hours within academies compared to maintained schools. Anecdotally at least, NUT experience is often that both teacher workload and turnover are higher in academies. After all, even the limited workload guarantees of the Schoolteachers’ Pay and Conditions Document do not automatically apply in the non-maintained sector.


Of course, what is true is that individual employers, whether MATs or Local Authorities, can help act to address the workload crisis by applying clear policies and collective agreements across their schools limiting working hours and non-teaching activities. The NUT wants to reach such agreements with employers in order to address the dangers highlighted in the EPI Report. If its facts and figures can help encourage employers to apply policies that genuinely limit workload, then it will have played a useful role.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

London's teachers and families need genuinely affordable homes

In preparation for speaking at the Policy Forum for London Seminar on 'Policy Priorities for Housing in London' this week, I have produced a short presentation setting out why urgent action is needed to tackle London's housing crisis.

The key points are:
  • London's housing crisis is putting our school success at risk - teachers are being priced out of London
  • 30% of Outer London's secondary schools already have temporary vacancies - when more teachers are needed
  • Median house prices in Inner London are EIGHTEEN times higher than a teacher's starting salary
  • More of London's young teachers are living with their parents than are buying a property
  • An Outer London teacher's starting salary only leaves them £63 a week to live on after paying a median rent
  • Most young teachers live in the private rented sector - but many face cramped, stressful and insecure conditions
  • Long working days mean teachers can't move too far away from their workplaces to find cheaper housing
  • So 60% of London's young teachers say they will be leaving the capital - most blame London's housing costs
  • In some London boroughs, two-thirds of teachers are now under 40 - older teachers are leaving London
  • London needs urgent action to provide genuinely affordable homes. The NUT calls for rent controls and investment for councils to build homes.
I have pasted the slides below and uploaded the presentation for discussions on housing in NUT Division and School meetings. The facts speak for themselves:













Sunday, 2 October 2016

Solving the workload crisis - winning an enforceable limit on teachers’ weekly working hours


There are many threats to teachers and education that need to be urgently combated – not least funding cuts and the educational damage being done by SATs, selection and academisation. However, if there’s one issue that most concerns teachers whenever I speak at school or Division meetings, it’s teacher workload.

I am posting this blog as a personal suggestion about what could be done to solve the teacher workload crisis, particularly drawing on the news that a Fair Workload Charter has been agreed in Nottingham that proposes a two-hour daily limit on teacher workload on top of directed time.

Teacher workload - the facts

Teacher workload is driving teachers out of the classroom. The current expectation that teachers work long hours, at the end of the school day and at weekends, is damaging the lives of teachers and their families.  Its consequences - turnover, stress and demoralisation - are also damaging education.

The statistics are undeniable but here are a few key facts – all taken from non-NUT sources:

  • The latest DfE workload survey (2013) reported that primary teachers work, on average, 59 hours a week, 55 in secondary schools. The average teacher reported that they worked 12-14 hours in the evenings and at weekends, mostly on marking and planning.
  • A more recent March 2016 Guardian survey of teachers recorded 82% as saying their workload was “unmanageable”. More than three-quarters said they worked between 49 and 65 hours a week. 75% said their workload was having a serious impact on their mental health. In turn, 79% of schools said they were struggling to recruit or retain teachers.
  • The latest DfE teacher workforce analysis (2015) shows that the annual 'wastage' rate - the numbers of teachers no longer teaching anywhere within the state sector from one year to the next – has now risen to over 1 in 10 in both the primary and secondary sectors for the first time.
  • The UK also has the greatest pupil-teacher ratios in Europe, with rising class sizes adding to the workload burden of marking, planning for individual needs and data management.

The solution – a limit on working hours

In response to rising concerns about the unsustainability of current teacher workload, the DfE’s Independent Teacher Workload Review Groups issued a series of recommendations to reduce the workload associated with marking, planning and data management. However, given the same DfE is applying relentless pressure on schools to constantly ‘improve’ or face outside intervention – and pressure is similarly applied to teachers through the threat of denial of pay progression – I fear that the recommendations alone may only have limited effect. While the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document continues to state that a teacher has to work ‘such additional hours as may be necessary to discharge  effectively your professional duties’, then teachers have no clear legal protection against excessive working hours that may be demanded of them by their managers.

Over years of debating this issue with colleagues, I have concluded that the solution has to be to introduce an enforceable weekly limit that would allow teachers to insist that whatever marking, planning, data management and other demands were placed on them, the overall workload must be able to be completed within that weekly limit.

Significantly, the need to impose a weekly limit on working hours is exactly the conclusion that has been arrived at by Nottingham’s Education Improvement Board (EIB), as highlighted in the Guardian. In conjunction with school staff unions, they have issued a Fair Workload Charter that includes, amongst other useful recommendations, this key expectation:

“the workload requirements of all policies should be reasonably  deliverable within an additional maximum two hour period, unless other contractual arrangements apply. For those with additional leadership responsibilities, a further one hour a day may be required”

I take that as meaning that, for a classroom teacher, no teacher could be asked to carry out tasks that take more than two hours on top of the school day and, presumably, none at the weekends. The precise definition of ‘additional leadership responsibilities’ might need unpicking but the extra ‘leadership’ hour would still help limit the particular pressures falling on school ‘middle managers’.

There are, of course, other ways of calculating a weekly limit which could be considered. The Nottingham Charter appears to set down approximately a 42 hour working week for a classroom teacher. This still works out at roughly an 8am – 5pm working day. That’s long but, especially if it came with a clear guarantee of no weekend work, would be considerably less than most teachers are working now.

The formulation reached by the Nottingham IEB is certainly one solution that could be applied by other employers. It could also be applied by the Secretary of State through a new Schoolteachers Pay and Conditions Document that finally gives real legislative limits to teacher working hours.

How could such a weekly limit be won – and enforced?

Nottingham IEB’s approach is to encourage schools to sign-up to the Charter so that they can then attract staff by using the ‘EIB fair workload’ logo in their advertisements and publicity. Against a background of increasing recruitment and retention difficulties, unions offering to endorse good employers to their members could certainly encourage both individual schools and wider employers – whether Academy Chains or Local Authorities – to follow the Nottingham model. Organising with members in schools to develop a collective bargaining approach to win similar agreements with other employers could certainly be a productive strategy for teaching unions.

However, the counteracting pressures on schools - Ofsted, league tables and spending cuts – means that too few employers will be as far-sighted as Nottingham. Therefore, alongside negotiations, unions will have to also prepare an industrial action strategy. This might require preparing members to take action in individual schools or across a whole employer.  This might require significant resources – but could win significant victories for overworked teachers – and for education overall.

Of course, winning an agreement through organising and collective bargaining will be only just a start – there will need to be an ongoing campaign to make sure the agreement applies in practice. For example, although the EiS union won a 35-hour contractual working week for Scottish teachers, in practice EiS members report having to work an average 46.5 hours a week. Clearly, any agreement on hours must be matched with school policies that explain how an hourly limit can be met. Above all, they must be backed up by union organisation in the workplace, with a confident union group and rep ready to step-in to make sure agreements are adhered to by both staff and management.

One advantage of the ‘additional two-hour’ limit adopted in Nottingham is it might be possible for many teachers to work those two hours before and after school – and therefore a culture built, and enforced, that teachers should not be taking marking and planning home with them when they leave. (although, as it is ‘non-directed time’ teachers should have  flexibility that allows them to meet individual commitments when they need to leave earlier). That would be a huge step forward.

But how will the work get done?

Winning support from members for such an hourly workload limit will require unions being able to answer some key questions that will inevitably be raised by staff:

Q) If I cut down on my workload, what if I don’t meet my performance management targets?

To address those understandable fears, I believe that, as part of the collective bargaining negotiations, unions would need to insist that an agreed Charter includes a guarantee that:

(i) no teacher will be set performance management targets – nor indeed ‘capability’ targets - that require them to work beyond the weekly limit on working hours
(ii) all teachers will automatically progress along union-endorsed salary scales

Q) What work can I get rid of to cut my existing workload in order to meet the new hourly limit?

First of all, we have to win teachers, not least middle managers, to the understanding that something HAS to be cut – continuing as we are at present is simply unsustainable.

Schools will need to arrive at policies that make clear how the limit can be achieved. The conclusions in the DfE Workload Reports provide some starting-points to how this could be done. How often does formal marking really need to be done?  What level of detail in planning is really needed – and how can shared planning and use of existing schemes of work and resources cut down on that planning time? What data really needs to be ‘captured’ and what systems can cut working time?

Of course, a workload crisis of the seriousness facing us may require radical solutions. While possibly controversial with some parents - and schools would need to explain that a Workload Charter was being introduced precisely because it is educationally essential -  one Essex school has recently concluded that the solution is to scrap homework altogether.

Of course, the other ‘radical’ but obvious solution, as explained below, is to increase PPA time so that every teacher has time to plan, prepare and assess during the working day. That could mean early closures to allow planning and meeting time – as some schools still operate.

More fundamentally it means having more qualified teachers (and not underpaid, unqualified cover) to increase teacher non-contact time - but that requires funding. This means our dispute over funding (see below) is inextricably linked to our campaign over workload and, indeed, workload was the issue that brought so many young teachers onto the strike rallies and demonstrations last July.

The reality as budget cuts start to bite, is that PPA is getting worse, not better. Some primary teachers report that the supposedly statutory minimum 10% non-contact time is being eaten into. Secondary teachers, who once could generally expect to have at least 20% non-contact time (‘free periods’) in their timetables, are seeing loadings increase every year – rising to match the inadequate 10% minimum in primary schools. Instead, we need a minimum 20% PPA for all teachers.

UPDATE (10.10.16): I should add - although it will seem obvious to teachers but not perhaps to politicians - that funding PPA by increasing class sizes is no solution either. The latest Education Policy Institute report again confirms the shocking levels of teacher workload in England using TALIS data. However, according to a Schools Week report, it concludes that it is “unlikely that teachers can cut down on workload unless classes are expanded so they have more time to prepare for fewer lessons". However, increasing class sizes are already one of the drivers of rising workload with teachers having to spend longer on marking and preparation for larger numbers of pupils. It is also an educationally damaging proposal that would leave children with less individual support. The real solution to teacher workload, alongside enforcing a limit on the demands made on staff, is to invest in more teachers.

Winning a Workload Charter nationally -  the NUT’s dispute with the Secretary of State

July’s day of national strike action by NUT members in England was part of our national dispute with the Secretary of State over the need for the funding and legislative changes to allow:

  • National collective bargaining on pay and conditions in all schools and academies
  • Pending a new collective bargaining structure, for pay and all other terms and conditions to be no worse than those in the STPCD and Burgundy Book
  • A significant improvement in the conditions of employment under which teachers work, in particular a limitation on class sizes to no more than 30 in the first instance
  • Reduction in teachers workloads, in particular through limitation on marking, data handling and planning
  • Reintroduction of pay portability, the pay spine points, fixed pay scales and removal of the requirement for all pay progression to be performance related
  • A significant improvement in measures to ensure teacher retention, including security of employment.

The discussion above over winning a Workload Charter can be seen as part of this ongoing dispute  –with the aim not just to win battles locally but to win:
1) a nationally collectively bargained Workload Charter that applies to all schools, maintained and academies that sets an enforceable statutory limit on overall working hours

2) funding to allow a limit on class sizes of no more than 30 in the first instance plus a minimum 20% non-contact time for all teachers to reduce workload requirements
3) fixed pay scales and removal of the requirement for all pay progression to be performance related so that teachers won’t be bullied into taking on workload over statutory limits


I would welcome any feedback on these suggestions but I hope it can encourage a discussion about how we can finally – and urgently – solve the teacher workload crisis.