Reduce teachers’ timetabled hours in most disadvantaged schools, says Teach First

New DfE data shows a stark drop in undergrad teacher trainees gaining QTS last year

The government should fund a £30 million-a-year pilot to reduce teachers’ timetabled hours in some of the most disadvantaged schools, Teach First has said, after more than half of teachers backed the idea.

The recommendation is one of several in a manifesto published by the charity, which also wants to see overall school funding increased and improvements made to the government’s education recovery package.

According to Teach First, reducing timetabled hours for teachers in schools serving the most disadvantaged areas would allow them to spend “more time on planning high quality lessons and professional development, which would improve pupil outcomes”.

A pilot to reduce teachers’ timetabled hours by 20 per cent in 1 per cent of the most disadvantaged schools would cost around £30 million a year to recruit the additional staff needed, the charity said.

Polling of more than 6,000 teachers by Teacher Tapp found that 52 per cent believed funding to reduce hours would make a difference. The proposal came second only to funding and access to social and mental health services, which was backed by 61 per cent.

‘The pandemic has made the situation worse’

Teach First also pointed to polling data from Parent Ping, which shows 44 per cent of parents whose children are eligible for free school meals are worried about the amount of school time lost during the pandemic, compared to 34 per cent of parents of non-FSM-eligible children.

Russell Hobby, the charity’s chief executive, said inequality had been “baked into our education system for too long and we need sustained action to tackle it”.

“The pandemic has made the situation worse: affecting some pupils far harder than others.”

In its manifesto, the charity said the government should “significantly increase” funding allocated to schools between 2022-23 and 2025-26, and “channel it through increases to the pupil premium”.

Ministers have so far only set out their school funding plans up to 2022, when the overall schools budget will be £7.1 billion larger than it was three years before. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned in 2019 that the funding boost still left the system facing an “unprecedented” 13-year real-terms freeze.

Calls for boost to education recovery and teachers’ pay

Teach First also said the government should boost its Covid-19 education recovery package, including teachers’ pay, particularly for those working in disadvantaged areas. It comes after the government announced pay for most teachers would be frozen in 2021-22.

Parent Ping data collected on behalf of the charity shows 63 per cent of respondents do not believe teachers are paid “fairly enough for the amount of work they do”.

Ministers should also provide a “short-term injection of ringfenced funding for schools who choose to employ specialist staff to support with pastoral care, additional needs, and family engagement”.

The release of the government’s initial recovery package in June prompted criticism after it allocated just £1.4 billion, less than 10 per cent of the £15 billion demanded by recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned over the announcement.

Hobby said any plan for the future of education “must go beyond ‘recovery’ because where we were before wasn’t good enough. We have an opportunity to break the historical cycle of inequality”.

Reduced timetable has made ‘huge difference’

Ann Donaghy, head of Noel-Baker Academy in Derby, which has already reduced teachers’ timetabled hours, said the approach had “made a huge difference during this really difficult time”.

“It has aided our staff’s wellbeing, given them time to plan their lessons, focus on progression and fully support our pupils.

“However, schools in disadvantaged areas can’t always make these changes alone – we need ring-fenced funding to do so. The government needs to empower us to invest in our own repair and growth. Only then will we be able to help every pupil thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

A DfE spokesperson said the government had taken a “wide range of action to address teacher workload and wellbeing and we are improving support and professional development at all stages of their career”.

“We have also committed to an ambitious and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3 billion and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.”

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