DfE extends curriculum fund pilots despite training and recruitment issues

The government is extending its curriculum fund pilots for another year, despite teething problems with training and recruitment.

In January, the Department for Education announced the names of 11 academies selected to lead trials of the programme, splitting £2.4 million in funding in an attempt to find the best ways to reduce teacher workload and improve results.

Almost half of participating teachers said their workload had decreased since being involved in the pilot.

But almost a quarter of teachers surveyed about the programme did not receive any training or support. This “was identified as a potential barrier to maximising the impact of the pilot”, a research paper on the early findings said.

There was also some “initial uncertainty” amongst lead schools around how they could encourage other schools to engage with the teacher-led and whole-class teaching elements of the programme.

The main challenge for lead schools was the timing of the pilots, which took place from January for seven schools and from April for another four. This led to “short timescales for the recruitment of participating schools and providing timely training and support prior to commencing delivery”.

However, the DfE has granted extensions to the delivery plans for nine of the 11 lead schools. It has not said which two have been stopped. Further detailed reports will follow in spring and winter next year.

It comes as a government survey found the average total of working hours for teachers and middle leaders in 2019 was 49.5 – down from the 54.4 hours recorded in the previous survey in 2016.

The DfE has also announced the names of organisations awarded contracts to support the roll-out of the government’s new early career framework.

The Ambition Institute, Education Development Trust, Teach First and UCL Institute of Education will provide high-quality support packages for schools in Bradford, Doncaster, the north east and Greater Manchester, the early roll-out areas selected by ministers, from next September.

 

Working hours down, but still well above average

The hours worked by school staff have dropped over the past three years, but teachers are still working almost 50 hours a week, a government survey has found.

According to the government’s teacher workload survey, the average total working hours of teachers and middle leaders in 2019 was 49.5. When the survey was carried out in 2016, the average week reported was 54.4 hours.

The survey, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research on behalf of the Department for Education, also found the average working week of senior leaders has fallen from 60.5 in 2016 to 55.1 this year.

However, workload among teachers and leaders still far surpasses that of the average worker, despite repeated pledges by successive governments to clamp down on the issue. The current average working week for the full-time workers across England is 37.2 hours long.

In the report, NFER states that “small differences between the content and administration of the two surveys may partly account for any differences between the two surveys”. The DfE said these differences mainly related to the use of the word “approximately” in questions this year, which was not used in 2016.

“Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe that there has been a genuine fall in the average working hours reported by teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders,” the report said.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said he was “not complacent”, adding that it was “clear from meeting many teachers across the country that we have more to do”.