Hinds: 'We must strip away workload that doesn't add value'

The government will help schools to “strip away” workload that “doesn’t add value” and threatens the retention of teachers, Damian Hinds will tell heads today.

Faced with a worsening teacher supply crisis, the new education secretary will make a desperate plea for help from teaching unions in a speech to the ASCL annual conference.

He will be joined on stage by Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, who will rail against the “costly distraction” of “endless data cuts, triple marking, 10 page lesson plans, and worst of all, Mocksteds”.

Speaking at the Birmingham event, Hinds will announce a strategy to “drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers”, which will involve working with the unions and other professional bodies to “devise ways of attracting, and keeping, the brightest and best graduates”.

Spielman will also pledge her organisation’s support, and admit that the view of her inspectorate “don’t really matter if we can’t attract good people into teaching”.

The rate at which new teachers enter the profession has been falling since 2013, and although new teachers still outnumber those who leave the profession, the gap has narrowed substantially in recent years.

This is a particular cause for concern, given that the secondary school-age pupils in England is expected to rise by 19 per cent over the next eight years. There are also fears that Britain’s exit from the European Union will affect the flow of qualified teachers from other countries.

Hinds will say this morning that although there are “so many brilliant teachers”, recruitment and retention is proving difficult for schools in the face of rising pupil numbers.

“Clearly, one of the biggest threats to retention, and also to recruitment, is workload. Too many of our teachers and our school leaders are working too long hours – and on non-teaching tasks that are not helping children to learn.”

He will say the country needs to “get back to the essence of successful teaching” and “strip away the workload that doesn’t add value” to give teachers the time and the space to focus on “what actually matters”.

Spielman will say that Ofsted too wants to play a part in reducing workload, so leaders are “able to focus on the things that matter to you and to your pupils”.

“When I see NQTs brimming with passion to change young lives for the better, I think it an utter travesty that so many end up losing their early enthusiasm, because of the pressures of the job. Especially when so many of those pressures are entirely unnecessary.

“Because that’s what endless data cuts, triple marking, 10 page lesson plans, and, worst of all, Mocksteds are: a distraction from the core purpose of education. And a costly distraction at that.”

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said he was pleased the government was “beginning to recognise the scale of the challenge in teacher recruitment and retention”.

However, ministers “need more than ambition if these efforts are to work”, he warned.

“School accountability needs fundamental reform, not tinkering. School leaders need to be know what the government and Ofsted expects of them, not just what they don’t expect. The government needs to recognise that funding cuts are also now driving up workload, and the Government needs to recognise that it must deal with the growing uncompetitiveness of teacher pay.”

Mike Kane, the shadow schools minister, also called on the government to “give teachers the pay they deserve”.

“The Tories have been promising to solve the workload crisis for years,” he said. “but the facts are that they have missed their own recruitment targets five years in a row, and teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers.

“This government can’t offer a solution to the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention because they created it.”