What’s happening to Teacher Workload – and why?

The 2013 Teacher Workload Survey has just been published. Apart from the actual data, it’s worth noting that the DfE has found some technical reasons for not including any comparisons with past years. When you look at the figures, this is perhaps not surprising.

The headline numbers are quite shocking. Since 2010 average weekly hours worked by primary teachers have increased from 50.2 hours a week to 59.3 hours. For secondary teachers the increase is from 49.9 to 55.7 and for secondary heads from 57.3 to 63.3. In both cases these are the highest figures ever recorded by miles.

In both primary and secondary, actual teaching hours have increased by 1 hour a week. The rest of the increase is in preparation, marking and administration.

About 55% of teachers felt that at least some of their workload was unnecessary and unnecessarily bureaucratic.

Teachers were also asked whether they thought the amount of time they spent on unnecessary and unnecessarily bureaucratic tasks had changed over the last 12 months. Thirty-six per cent of headteachers and 45% of deputy heads and classroom teachers felt that it had increased while 36% and 42% respectively thought it had stayed the same. Small proportions (9% – 5% respectively) thought it had decreased.

More detailed analysis of what teachers are doing that they think is unnecessary shine an interesting light on what is happening in many schools. The central issue for many is preparation for Ofsted and (especially for many heads) dealing with changes to the Ofsted process. Beyond that teachers identified changes imposed by government and having to report, analyse or input data too often or too much. This went along with demands for marking that is considered over detailed and for too much assessment.

This all points to a regime that increasingly is spending its time measuring things, preparing to be measured itself and generally watching its back. Any school that considers itself at all at risk will be demanding monthly or half termly assessments of pupils – not just a quick classroom check on progress but the full industry of data input, spreadsheet production and analysis.

The reason given is that schools need to know “who to target”. Who are the key children that will get the school over the dreaded floor targets? Woe betide the head who doesn’t have an action plan for those children on his wall (sorry – i-pad these days I suppose so he or she can fret about it in bed as well!).

Of course if we think this survey is bad, we should just reflect on what’s coming down the road. A continuing squeeze on budgets – because in reality school budgets haven’t been fully protected whatever ministers say. A longer school day says Gove – but without any more money. The entire national Curriculum and every examination course changed virtually simultaneously. While there is some relief that the STRB has rejected Gove’s wilder ideas for deregulating term lengths and working hours and getting rid of teachers’ freedom from most cover, it did accept getting rid of the right not to be required to undertake purely administrative tasks.

So not much hope of any improvement in the near future. Given that no one expects to see big budget increases for a very long time, this points to an urgent need to look again at the culture of fear which requires these extravagant levels of data collection, assessment and inspection preparation.

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