Nottingham council’s pioneering approach to capping overtime for teachers has won plaudits across the sector – but the number of schools committing remains low.
The city’s education improvement board launched its “Fair Workload Charter” last autumn, urging local schools to cap the work teachers are expected to perform in their own time at two hours a night.
The EIB’s lead on school improvement, David Anstead (pictured), believes the charter will help alleviate the crisis of teachers quitting the profession.
In February, an education select committee report recommended the approach after Mr Anstead presented it last October, but despite initial excitement, very few schools have actually adopted the charter.
Of the 100 or so schools in Nottingham only nine have signed up, and another 10 to 15 are in the pipeline.
Unless we can make it a priority things are unlikely to change
“Headteachers need to feel reassured not only that this is allowed but that it’s essential. It’s just not a priority for heads right now and unless we can make it a priority things are unlikely to change,” Mr Anstead said.
“Unless we all do something about teacher workload we will continue to have this recruitment and retention problem. It’s absolutely critical. All the national evidence points to workloads above everything else as being the main reason why we are seeing all these teachers leave.”
He insisted the charter is not an expectation that teachers must work two hours longer but rather a cap on the otherwise unlimited hours they can be expected to spend planning and marking once the school day is finished.
And although he confessed he is “disappointed” by the number of Nottingham schools that have adopted the charter so far, he is surprised by how many local authorities which contacted the EIB for advice on how to implement the scheme.
“We started in Nottingham doing this for the benefit of Nottingham schools, to make them a better place to work and make Nottingham stronger in the recruitment market. It was completely selfish,” he said.
“It wasn’t our intention to make it a national issue but it just sort of happened. We’ve been getting requests from all over. Everyone comes to us and says ‘what can we do’ and we’re just a small group of people in Nottingham doing all this work.
“The DfE has been really supportive, but we need national figures and leaders to take a stand and say this needs to happen and take it on. If someone like Justine Greening would take a lead and work with authorities and Ofsted on this, it would make a real difference.”
A spokesperson for the DfE said that alleviating pressures on teachers “remains a priority”.
“We know excessive workload contributes to teachers leaving the profession which is why we continue to work with unions, teachers and Ofsted to challenge unhelpful practices that add to teacher workload,” they said.
“We have already published a range of examples about how schools are managing workload in our teaching blog and have awarded grant funding to 11 groups of schools to carry out collaborative research projects into efficient and effective approaches which reduce workload related to marking, planning and resources and data management.”
The Nottingham EIB is hosting a school workload conference on November 17, with speakers including Dr Mary Bousted, Stephen Baker and Professor Sir David Greenaway.