Teachers are being forced to go part-time in order to manage their workload, the Department for Education has admitted.
Researchers carried out 75 interviews with full- and part-time teachers and leaders last summer to find out about what causes longer hours at work, and how schools are addressing the problem.
The resulting report into ‘Exploring teacher workload’ revealed that workload pressures on teachers are driving them to reduce their hours in order to carve time out to finish their tasks – essentially taking a pay cut to reclaim their evenings and weekends.
Valentine Mulholland, the head of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said the research “paints a bleak picture of the workload pressures on both teachers and school leaders”.
The situation requires a full “recovery plan” rather than just “tweaking at the edges”.
“NAHT has committed to presenting a new vision for the accountability system, with an independent commission into accountability that commenced last week,” she added.
The research paints a bleak picture of the workload pressures on both teachers and school leaders
All of the part-time teachers interviewed in the DfE research had gone part-time to make their workload more manageable, and every one said they used their non-working week days as additional time to cover administrative tasks.
They regarded it as “unpaid planning, preparation and assessment time” and reported working full-time hours of around 40 hours per week, despite being employed on a part-time contract.
The leaders meanwhile said managing part-time staff created additional work for them, such as complicated timetabling, but admitted that this sort of arrangement helped retain talented teachers who might otherwise leave.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said leaders must “be able to adapt to people’s changing needs” in order to improve retention, but acknowledged that “managing timetables to allow part-time working is a challenge”.
“It would help a great deal if school leaders were not also having to cope with balancing budgets under severe financial constraints and myriad other pressures which are difficult and time-consuming,” he said.
Suzanne Beckley, a policy adviser at the National Education Union, said she is investigating part-time work at present, and her union has just issued a survey on the topic to 10,000 of its members.
The survey will close next weekend but has already received many responses.
She agreed that workload is the “number one reason” teachers go part-time, alongside those returning to work after maternity leave.
“All of our teachers work on their days off. Many have gone part time so they are not working seven days a week,” she confirmed. “We also have concerns about opportunities for promotion of part-timers into leadership roles.”
The DfE found that most teachers want more training for promotion to senior leadership positions, even though professional development is generally difficult to fit into a timetable.
New teachers want workload management covered in their training, while more experienced teachers would prefer more formal training when new elements of the curriculum are introduced, such as computer coding at primary schools.
Some teachers reported that their school had introduced new software to try to reduce workload, such as programmes for tracking pupil performance, but training was necessary for this too.
“Teachers felt that using new software introduced by the school, without sufficient training, meant that the process added negatively to their workload,” the DfE research said.
“We also have to accept that there is inevitably a transition time as people become used to new software,” Barton admitted, though he thinks it can be an effective tool for workload management once it has bedded in.
Overall, the DfE concluded that “support and professional development around teacher workload appeared to be limited”.
Senior leaders feel that there is no or little support available to help them tackle the problem, and most rely on their headteacher or leadership networks for help.
Speed read: The most important findings from the DfE’s deluge of reports
Teacher voice in numbers
The teacher voice omnibus survey was completed by 1,962 practising teachers working at 1,619 schools in the maintained sector last summer. There was a balance of primary and secondary teachers, classroom teachers and senior leaders, all answering questions set by the Department for Education and delivered through the National Foundation for Educational Research. Schools Week has picked out the top findings.
Some teachers think illegal informal exclusion is okay
Twenty-two per cent of teachers believe it is ok to put pressure on parents to withdraw their child and send them to another school instead of excluding them, a practice that is illegal.
Six per cent do not teach sex education
Six per cent of senior leaders said their schools teach neither PSHE nor sex and relationships education, which is illegal in local-authority run secondary schools.
Sixty-five per cent said they would need teaching materials to effectively introduce mandatory PSHE and SRE, while 51 per cent requested a CPD programme and examples of good practice.
Leaders prefer home contact over fines
Senior leaders overwhelmingly prefer to deal with attendance by contacting home on the first day of an absence and trying to working with parents individually (94 per cent). Awards for good attendance are used by 92 per cent of respondents.
Only 62 per cent use penalty notices leading to fines for parents.
New D&T GCSE causes the most worries
23 per cent of secondary leaders said their school is not confident about teaching the third wave of new GCSEs from September 2017. Design and technology is the cause of most concern.
Three quarters of teachers do not want to become heads
This is worrying given the DfE’s desire for a “strong, consistent supply” of school leaders. Only nine per cent of classroom teachers said they aspire to become heads in the future.
Almost all senior leaders think the DfE’s financial efficiency tool is useless
Only three per cent said they found the DfE’s financial efficiency metric tool, an online service which provides compares a school’s finances with their peers’, a useful way to help manage their school’s budget. Over three quarters (77 per cent) said their schools were reviewing staffing structures and two thirds were looking at where they buy their goods and services.
How the DfE plans to tackle teacher workload
Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders’ annual conference in Birmingham last week, Damian Hinds promised to “strip away the workload that doesn’t add value and give teachers the time to focus on what actually matters”. Here are the rest of his plans:
-For the rest of this parliament there will be no new assessments for primary schools, no further changes to the national curriculum, and no more reform of GCSEs and A-levels.
-An online workload reduction toolkit will be created in collaboration with teachers, school leaders, Ofsted and the unions.
-Sector experts will work with teachers to assess what kinds of data schools are collecting and why. An action plan based on these findings will be created to streamline the process and will be published by the end of the summer term.
-Extra support will be offered to help schools use technology to reduce workload.
-The £7.7 million curriculum fund announced by former education secretary Justine Greening in January will be used to help schools share to high-quality teaching resources.
-A new teacher recruitment website will be set up, and will offer teachers specific help in pursuing flexible working, including job shares.