Mary Bousted: 'If the government won't act on workload, NEU will'

If the government does not reduce teacher workload, the National Education Union will take action, one of its leaders has warned.

Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the NEU, told the ATL section conference this morning that the time has come for a limit on teachers’ working hours.

She also warned that her union would take action if workload concerns are not addressed, repeating a warning given by Kevin Courtney, her fellow joint general secretary, when he addressed the conference yesterday.

“Teachers’ working hours must be reduced and their work must become more satisfying and professional,” she said. “As Kevin said to you yesterday, and I said to the NUT section conference, if the government won’t take action on workload, the National Education Union will consult its members to do just that.”

Bousted wants a limit on teachers’ working hours to be “negotiated with the unions and properly enforced”.

“It is the only way I can think of to end the long-hours culture in schools and to give teachers a firm place on which to stand and say: ‘If you want me to do this, I can’t do that’.”

Such a limit would force ministers to “think carefully about their approach to education policy reform”.

“Imagine ministers having to research and take into account just how many working hours it would take teachers to prepare for their next best idea. Imagine if ministers actually had to take into account how long it took to prepare to teach a new national curriculum, or a GCSE or A-level qualification.”

Bousted also expressed doubts about recent commitments from the education secretary, Damian Hinds, to tackle workload. Hinds appeared alongside Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman at the ASCL conference last month and pledged to address the issue.

While Hinds’ commitment is “welcome”, Bousted said teachers “have been here before”, and pointed to the 2014 workload challenge. An NEU survey this week found that 87 per cent of teachers feel the initiative has not cut workload at all.

“Remember Nicky Morgan’s launch of her workload challenge in 2014? Forty-four thousand teachers responded to her invitation to tell them just what it was that was keeping them up to the small hours,” said Bousted.

“Lesson planning, marking and data collection were the key culprits then. And they still are.

“ATL members told us in 2017 that their working hours were getting worse, despite the government’s guidance on reducing workload. But government guidance on what teachers should not do is simply not enough.”