'Don't answer emails outside office hours', education secretary tells teachers

The government will spend £10 million supporting the use of education technology in schools, Damian Hinds will announce today, as he urges teachers not to respond to emails outside office hours.

Speaking at the Bett Show in London, the education secretary will urge schools to “make smarter use of technology” to ensure it doesn’t add to teachers’ responsibilities.

A survey last year found half of teachers answered their emails during the Christmas holidays, and teachers increasingly warn of out-of-hours demands from schools and parents.

Many schools are already reviewing their school practices to reduce workload – and to those who haven’t already, I encourage them to look at what they can do to shift away from an email culture

“Back when I was at school there was an annual parents evening and a report at the end of the year. Maybe a letter home if there was a school trip. That report still happens and so does the parents evening, but email has revolutionised parent, teacher communication,” Hinds will say.

“In many or perhaps all occupations, email takes up a lot time. MPs have seen a step change in correspondence and contact through email. For many teachers the situation is even more intense, with a huge volume of emails from parents and their senior leadership team that they need to respond to outside of lesson time.”

The education secretary will highlight the approach of St Edward’s secondary school in Dorset, which banned emails to its “all staff” distribution list and started a short weekly bulletin. Leaders also set out expectations for when email should and shouldn’t be used, and how long staff should have to respond.

St Edwards was included in the government’s workload reduction toolkit, which was ridiculed last year when it was released on the first day of the summer holidays.

He will also mention Bolton College, which is using an artificial intelligence to reduce the hours teachers spend on admin.

“Many schools are already reviewing their school practices to reduce workload – and to those who haven’t already, I encourage them to look at what they can do to shift away from an email culture in…to free teachers up to spend more time in the classroom.”

Hinds will also outline his plans for an “EdTech strategy”, which will launch later this year to “harness the power of technology in schools”. It will also seek to strengthen training for teachers and reduce workload.

An investment of £10 million will be supported by a group of schools and colleges “selected to aid the development, piloting and evaluation of innovative technology”.

It comes after Schools Week revealed earlier this month that the Department for Education plans to assess and “quality-mark” smartphone and tablet education apps for younger pupils. Officials will also consider extending the assessment to apps for older children if the process is a success.