Teachers taking on unpaid extra duties to satisfy 'brutal' new inspections, warns NEU

Teachers are having to take on additional responsibilities without extra pay under Ofsted’s new inspection regime, the National Education Union has warned.

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s joint general secretaries, said they had received a “significant upsurge” in complaints from members about “excessive workload, stress and pressure” placed on them during and in the run-up to inspections.

They added that Ofsted’s new curriculum focus is putting a particular strain on small primary schools, where some teachers are reportedly being given leadership responsibilities for two or three subject areas.

But Ofsted accused the NEU of “misrepresenting or misunderstanding” its approach, and insisted it does not favour “any particular staffing structure”.

“We are being told, by members without teaching and leadership responsibility (TLR) payments, and with no additional non-contact time, that impossible demands are being made upon them,” said Bousted and Courtney, in a letter to chief inspector Amanda Spielman.

“In particular, they are being required to take responsibility for the quality of the curriculum across the school without having any time made available to them to gather evidence and monitor the curriculum across the school’s provision.”

The School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document states teachers cannot be expected to take on responsibility or accountability for a subject area without appropriate additional payment.

The union has now advised its members they should not be taking on extra responsibilities, such as accountability for standards in a subject, sequencing of knowledge in a subject, or monitoring and evaluation of teaching and learning, without appropriate additional payment.

These teachers should also not attend meetings with inspectors without the presence of a senior staff member, the union said.

The letter stated union members have described the new regime as “brutal”, adding: “They tell us that their workload is now out of control, and they are highly stressed and anxious.”

Under the new regime, inspectors issue a “quality of education” judgment after inspections which involve deep dives in particular subjects.

Last month, Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, insisted the watchdog’s curriculum deep dives would not penalise smaller schools, adding he understood concerns about teachers “who are coordinating multiple subjects and balancing other responsibilities as well”.

Sheridan said that inspectors “understand the unique challenges” and will “take account of the way you organise the curriculum and leadership of subject areas.”

But the NEU said the framework “assumes a management structure of heads of department with responsibility for a subject area… and appropriately rewarded with a TLR payment. This may be common in secondary schools but is not common in the majority of primary schools.”

Ofsted brought in its new inspection framework in September, with a promise that its new focus on substance over outcomes would help tackle teacher workload.

A spokesperson for Ofsted, said: “The NEU is misrepresenting or misunderstanding our approach to inspecting the curriculum. We are not looking to hold individuals to account, nor do we expect any particular staffing structure. We do not grade subject departments, lessons or individuals.

“Our inspectors are happy to have conversations with any relevant staff members or groups of staff, including in small schools where headteachers rightly will want to support their staff in discussions so inspectors can understand the school’s approach.”