After the election results, the government now needs to make good on its election promises.

With the recent election outcome, we can now only hope Nicky Morgan keeps to the promises made in the Department for Education’s (DfE) Workload Challenge report published in February. Reading back over the details this half-term, I have decided to look at each of the recommendations listed in the Government Response to the Workload Challenge in closer detail.

I’d also like to offer my practical suggestions for school leaders in the hope that we can all promise to use these strategies for tackling workload in schools.

In the 38 weeks of term time, teachers are contracted to work 32.5 hours per week – yet most teachers and leaders report between 50 to 60 hours per week managing their workload. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I do hope to see a day when teachers’ timetables are reduced so we have more time set aside for planning and marking.

For now, the Government Response to the Workload Challenge sets out six actions.

The number one commitment was to introduce a national policy setting out the minimum lead-in times for significant curriculum, qualifications and accountability changes. The DfE has already put out a notice saying they will give at least a year’s notice for any changes and there should be no more “in-year” changes. Let’s hope they mean it!

The number two commitment from the government was to assess teacher workload with a bi-annual survey. I can never recall a workload challenge which has been so prominent and so I really hope that we see a survey like this again – at least twice over – in the next five years.

Thirdly, the DFE outlined an action plan for Ofsted. It asks them to clarify what inspectors want and what they do not want to see in schools, and to publish “facts” and “myths” about what is expected to stop gimmicky teaching.

We must create a ‘work-life’ balance rather than ‘work-work’


The fourth priority is very relevant to myself: support for school leaders. Apart from the direct support I receive from my own headteacher, I cannot think of any other support network – other than CPD I have created for myself – designed to support school leaders in very demanding situations. We already know that 1 in 4 headteacher vacancies across England and Wales are left unfilled. I know the day I decide to step up to headship (if it arrives), I will become a rare commodity.

Programmes such as Future Leaders, Teaching Leaders and support from MAT programmes, the NCTL and the SSAT have so much to offer. It is the duty of all headteachers to share these developmental leadership programmes with current and aspiring school leaders.

Fifth and foremost, the government wants every single teacher to have access to a better evidence base, with a one-stop-shop where they can publish and access academic research.

The DfE hopes to develop “research schools” and publish examples of what is working in classrooms. This is a fabulous idea, but will it work? I wish we had started this a decade ago when I first started my school-focused masters degree.

Finally, the sixth priority on the government’s action plan is a commitment for a panel to be established to develop principles for good data and ICT management in schools. I have yet to work in a school where ICT is so well organised that it actually drives teaching and learning rather than supports it.

For the government to be able to meet all of their commitments, the DfE, school leaders and the teaching community must begin to address the strategies for tackling workload in schools.

We owe it to ourselves to fulfil our own promises. We must stop requesting that teachers complete individual lesson plans. We must stop filling teacher timetables up to 90 per cent or more. We must stop pointless meetings, and chalk and talk INSET days. On assessment we should stop the marking frenzy and the need for duplication of reports and data tracking. Ask for it once, complete the task online, make the data live, have sources that talk to each other.

On graded lessons, we must also stop. We must ask teachers to observe each other and prompt professional dialogue, dissemination and reflection.

Finally, we should stop any expectation that teaching staff should work beyond 40 hours per week. If workload cannot be completed in this time, it should not be assumed that it will be completed at home. This can be done by stopping unnecessary emails and creating an ethos of “work-life balance” rather than “work-work”.

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  1. Interesting points but just tinkering at the edges.

    It feels like the teaching profession are treated as adolescents. And the teaching profession itself acts in that way too. The profession has to ask the grown-ups (the government) for permission to work less than 60 hours per week, and all the other things listed above.

    If the profession want to act as grown-ups they need to find a way to take the decisions themselves. Teachers should be partners in deciding education policy in all its aspects, from the curriculum and school structures, to working conditions.

    If we think that Ms Morgan is going to do anything to improve working conditions we need to think again. She has just presented a bill to sack head teachers of “coasting” schools but has not defined what “coasting” means. So she can effectively sack anyone she wishes. And what has the profession done to oppose this crazy situation? Absolutely nothing!

    Politicians do not respond to adolescents saying “please Miss it’s not fair”. They are in government because they are brutal in their ability to grab power.

    The teaching profession cannot even organise a single clear representative response to what is being done to them. We need to become grown-ups and start to make grown up decisions.

    A good place to start would be with a reform of who represents the profession. We have teacher unions that battle one another and sabre rattle, and head teacher organisations that do not co-ordinate with one another or talk to the teacher unions. If we cannot even get that sorted the profession is doomed to further decline as a second class job.

    I say this sadly after 37 years as a teacher.

    • Groovybrewster

      I agree with so much of the above comment. We cannot rely/ depend on the government to keep promises they made before the election. But then, who can? If we had one union that everybody belongs to and supports then we have power to drive change not just weakly complain when it’s forced upon us. I have been teaching for 21 years and know it to be the truth. I attend every union meeting we have at our school (and we have a lot!) and yet each time I feel embarrassed as I hear colleagues arguing with each other, arguing with the local and regional reps and basically achieving nothing. Our school leadership team make promise after promise and never come good because they know they can get away with it. My dream for education is that we have one system of education: the comprehensive system. We get rid of grammars, academies, free school, specialist colleges etc etc. We scrap tables, competition and parental choice. Every child goes to their local secondary school which is as good as the next school down the road. Only by achieving true parity can we give our children the same opportunities as everybody else. An impossible dream, sadly, I know.

  2. I agree with top comments.
    I think head teachers across the country should put in a vote of no confidence to the education department at Westminster, they are clearly not in touch with any of our state schools or normal schools today. If we do not stand up for this profession and get rid of silly gimmicks like the E-Bacc & progress 8 which limit students choices at such a critical age. Then more and more dictation will occur from Nicky Morgan and her cronies and where will that leave us all?
    Educators should have the opportunity to work with proper and efficient guidance not swaying in the wind waiting for the next blow below the stomach.