Thursday, 6 November 2014

November National Executive Report - Workload

This afternoon, as agreed at the last Special Meeting of the NUT Executive, the Executive finalised the Union's Workload Action Programme*.

Inevitably, on such a wide-ranging issue, there had been many suggestions put forward, and some contributors might still prefer this or that addition to the final version. However, overall, I was pleased that National Officers made a number of updates to the original draft and the Executive were unanimous in agreeing the revised Programme. Now we have to publicise it and fight to win it and make sure that politicians turn fine words into concrete action.

Here is what was agreed: 


Reform accountability so it is based on trust
One of the fundamental drivers of excessive working hours is an accountability system that does not trust teachers. All levels of accountability should be reformed so that they are based on trust, respectful professional dialogue and proportionality. Necessarily this means the replacement of Ofsted/Estyn by a new school accountability system.

Take action on marking, planning, data, meetings and observations
Pending an accountability review Government must take immediate action. All schools should be encouraged reduce workload including by abiding by the recent Ofsted clarifications. Schools should desist from requiring that teachers i) use marking schemes which generate written dialogue between them and their pupils ii) provide evidence of the work that they do, outside that which arises naturally iii) produce detailed lesson plans or hand them in iv) further schools should follow Ofsted’s own practice and desist from grading lesson observations, nor should they carry out more than 3 observations per year, except in cases of concern. The Government should encourage schools via a circular to reduce data collection demands, to limit after school meetings and to promulgate agreed best practice including around peer observations.

Allow time for curriculum and SEN reform 
Government should announce additional non-teaching days to allow teachers to prepare for the rushed curriculum and SEN changes and in future plan such changes in consultation and over a longer period.

Reform the teacher pay system 
The introduction of performance related pay has led to an increase in bureaucracy and working hours. The Government should announce i) a moratorium on performance related pay on the main scale whilst negotiations on a national pay system take place ii) remind schools that the upper spine does not carry extra responsibilities - it is for teachers who choose to remain in the classroom instead of moving into management iii) that Ofsted/Estyn will not comment on pay policies.

Adopt a binding work life balance policy 
All schools should adopt a binding work-life balance policy. This policy should make clear that schools must have a proper regard for teachers’ legitimate expectations of a healthy balance between work and other commitments and be clear that if there is a new initiative which takes teacher time then something teachers currently do has to be dropped.

Measure workload every year 
The workload diary survey of teacher hours should run annually, supervised by a board drawn from the DFE and teacher unions. Michael Gove didn't run the survey between 2010 and 2013 when it showed a 10% increase.

Set targets to reduce workload and introduce limits
The Government should adopt an immediate target for a reduction in teacher working hours and begin the phased introduction of binding limits on teacher working time.  The last workload diary survey showed primary teachers working 60 hours on average and secondary teachers 56.5 hours. Head teachers were working even more. 

Increase teacher numbers to improve education

Education would be improved by increasing the number of teachers which would permit increased time for collaboration between teachers and the provision of time within the school day for planning, preparation and assessment and would allow smaller classes and more individual support for children

The programme will be accompanied by the following information:


Teacher working hours in England & Wales are higher than in other countries
Excessive working hours are contributing to teacher shortages and tired teachers.  Much of the excessive work arises from an accountability system which has low trust in teachers. Much of it is not work that benefits our pupils. These working hours are unsustainable and bad for the children we teach. Even with the 17 week averaging period, for many teachers they are over European Working Time Directive limits.

The “workload challenge” survey – responding to the NUT campaign
In response to the NUT’s campaigning Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg have announced a “workload challenge” consultation. More than 29,000 teachers have already responded. Please add your views, use our suggested action plan to inform your response and including any examples of good practice in your own school. The survey closes on 21st November
Fill in the DfE survey here
Send your suggestions on how to reduce workload to the DFE at

Change must be real and negotiated
Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg say they will be putting forward proposals that will reduce teacher workload in the New Year. If they are to convince teachers that this is more than a cynical election ploy there will have to be real movement.  But this movement must be based on professional respect, not for example, on the introduction of standardised commercial lesson plans.

The actions proposed overleaf by the NUT could reduce excessive hours quickly, in some cases with little or no cost. However the roots of the workload problem are deep and fundamental actions are required by Government.  Our action points should apply to all state funded schools and colleges, whatever their status and should be implemented in consultation and negotiation with the teacher organisations.

The positive suggestions in the NUT manifesto and the question of teacher pay and pensions must be addressed
Government and political parties need to recognise teacher ideas for improving education. The NUT’s manifesto, which is gaining increasing support, contains many positive suggestions. Read and endorse it here:

Politicians need to address our disputes over both pay and pensions. They continue to be deeply felt and must be addressed – and indeed by contributing to teacher 'churn' they are in themselves contributing to excessive workload. 

* A couple of late amendments to the Programme were also included to make sure that it also properly addressed how matters should be taken forward in Wales. I will update the post to include these when I have the confirmed wording.

For a further post on salaries and pensions issues, read next post or go to

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