Reducing teacher workload

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By One Education
on 03 March, 2017

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Reducing teacher workload: DfE’s update and action plan

Following on from the three reports addressing the challenge of teacher workload published in March 2016 (led by independent review groups on marking, data management, and lesson planning) the DfE published an action plan this week to set out what they are doing to meet the recommendations of the reports.

The Teacher Workload Survey 2016 (TWS) further corroborated the findings of the three reports and provides additional information about where the DfE should be targeting workload reduction, including an offer to schools of targeted support to help them remove unnecessary practice that does not improve pupils’ life chances. 

Key points from the DfE’s action plan are summarised below. See the full action plan

Data management

By summer 2017, the DfE aims to:

  • Have reviewed learning from the ‘DfE data exchange’ project (improving ways of moving data from a school to the DfE and trialing ways to reduce DfE’s data burden on schools) and be in the process of building long-term solutions, with common standards being at the heart of new design
  • Ensure that the replacement of RAISEonline will include question level analysis of KS2 performance being available to pupils’ new secondary schools, as part of doing more to support schools identify and action areas where pupils may need to catch up
  • Launch a replacement for Edubase to provide an ‘enhanced service which will seamlessly integrate the data held on Edubase with other key systems’
  • Investigate further how the effective and evidence-based use of technology can be used as a means to remove unnecessary workload
  • Work through ‘a range of solutions to make it easier for schools to advertise teacher vacancies’.

Response to Teacher Workload survey

  • Workforce planning guidance has been published in January that ‘encourages school leaders to consider staff workload and morale as part of the business planning cycle’
  • Grants have been awarded to 11 groups of schools to carry out their own workload reviews. The outcomes are due to be published in Spring 2018
  • Revising the content of National Professional Qualifications for school leaders, including specific mention of ‘the need to make proportionate use of data in schools and to review the cumulative impact of initiative on teacher workload.’

Commitment from the DfE to lead-in times for changes

  • No new national tests or assessments to be introduced before the 2018-2019 academic year
  • Reviewed and reissued DfE protocol to provide schools with enough notice and lead-in time for changes to the curriculum, accountability and qualifications: there should be at least one year lead-in time for any such changes that will have an impact on staff workload; where possible any changes should be introduced at the start of the academic year; and the department should generally seek to avoid such changes while pupils are within a key stage.

Support for teachers’ CPD

  • Curriculum support programmes have been developed (mainly focusing on STEM) to encourage schools to take systematic school-level approaches to detailed curriculum planning: the Maths Hub programme, Science Learning Partnerships and the Computing Network of Excellence. Alongside this, the use of high quality textbooks is being promoted to better meet the needs of teachers and support them with curriculum planning
  • A package of support for teachers in the first five years of their careers to help them manage their workload will be developed
  • The DfE will also explore how they can ‘improve career progression for teachers at all stages of their career, including those who wish to stay in the classroom’
  • A ‘strengthened’ QTS will also be implemented from September 2019
  • The £75 million Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF) was announced last October, one of its main aims being to ‘stimulate more/better provision of teachers’ continuing professional development in challenging schools/areas.’

Support for part-time and flexible working

  • Flexible working in schools guidance was published in February with the intention of providing teachers with the information they need to make informed decisions, and to help schools overcome what they might see as barriers or misconceptions around offering more flexible working opportunities which work for everyone
  • A pilot, Returners Engagement Programme has been funded to enable schools in the North West and South East to support and employ maths, physics and MFL returners on a part-time or flexible basis. At a national level, returners can access one-to-one support from a dedicated adviser
  • The Teachers Working Longer Review (WLR) interim report was published in February, with the final report to be published sometime this year. The final recommendations will likely ‘focus on supporting those who choose to work longer, for example through more flexible working, including part-time working; providing more consistent access to occupational health; and helping teachers to plan well ahead and understand their retirement options from very early in and throughout their teaching careers’.

Finally, the DfE has committed to biennial surveys to track teacher workload and to conduct additional evaluation of the effect of the government’s efforts to remove unnecessary workload.

One Education has a wealth of experience in supporting leaders to review systems and processes within schools to make them more efficient and effective for all staff involved. Reducing unnecessary workload gives teachers the freedom to focus more on the core business of education: pupil learning. Having time for professional dialogue focused on learning truly fosters innovative teaching practice and ultimately benefits pupils no end.

Contact the School Improvement Team on 0844 967 1111 for more information.

Authored by Fay Gingell.

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