An annual survey by the teacher’s trade union NASUWT highlighted many concerns that teachers have over pay, student behaviour, senior management support, work culture, job satisfaction, and an increasingly unmanageable workload. The research found that workload is still the main cause of stress, with curriculum changes and inspection viewed as affecting workload adversely (NASWUT, 2014, p.5).
Other research has unearthed similar concerns about the amount of work that teachers are expected to fit into their week. In February this year The Department for Education published report examining teachers’ workload and working patterns in 2013. The report was based on findings from a diary survey that highlighted concerns over working hours and the difficulties many teachers experienced with unnecessary tasks. The results will not come as a surprise for those already working in the education sector.
On average, all school teachers reported working more than 50 hours each week on average, with both primary and secondary head teachers working over 60 hours. On average only 19 to 20 hours of this total weekly figure is spent teaching, with the majority of the remaining time needed for lesson planning, preparation, non-teaching pupil or parent contact, general administrative duties, and assessment.
When asked about what they felt had caused an increase in unnecessary or bureaucratic tasks, teachers reported that duplication and the level of detail required in certain situations (for example, marking and recording pupil progress, data analysis, reporting and evidence gathering) was excessive. Nearly half of teachers believed that time spent on such activities had increased in the last year. However, Ofsted inspection was seen to be the primary generator of additional workload due to all the preparation, paperwork and departmental policy changes required.
In light of the impact that inspections appear to have on the teaching profession, new guidance has been issued by Ofsted with the aim of dispelling some of the myths surrounding school inspections with the facts about exactly what is required:
- Schools do not need to provide previous or current individual lessons plans to inspectors. Ofsted is only interested in how effective planning is rather than the structure or amount of detail included.
- Self-evaluation does not need to be provided in a certain format.
- Neither individual lessons or the quality of teaching within them are graded, and the Ofsted evaluation mark schemes are not expected to be used by schools to grade teaching or lessons.
- Schools are not required to undertake a specific amount of lesson observation, and specific details of the pay grade for teachers observed during inspection is not needed by Ofsted.
- Ofsted does not expect a set frequency or quantity of work in pupil’s books or folders, as output will depend on the age and ability of the pupils. Extensive written feedback between teachers and students is unnecessary, as Ofsted will look for a variety of forms of feedback and their effective promotion of learning.
- No evidence for inspection is needed beyond that requested in the Ofsted inspection handbook. Ofsted will require evidence of monitoring of teaching and learning and how this links to teachers’ performance management and the Teachers’ Standards. However, this should be routinely used data and not generated additionally for inspection.
- Ofsted take a range of evidence into account when making judgements, such as published performance data, in-year performance data and work in pupil’s books and folders. Extensive collections of marked pupil’s work is therefore not needed. Teachers and pupils should not undertake additional work specifically for the inspection.
- Presentation of performance and pupil-tracking data is not required in a specific format. Schools are directed to use whatever format they would normally employ.
- Ofsted does not require schools to give evidence for each teacher for each of the bulleted sub-headings in the Teachers’ Standards.
- Ofsted will report on failures to comply with statutory arrangements (including those relating to the workforce) where they form part of the inspection framework and evaluation schedule in part 2 of the School Inspection Handbook.
Creating more awareness about what Ofsted actually require will hopefully reduce the amount of unnecessary administration. The knock-on effect should be a reduction in needless tasks and a step closer towards reaching that elusive work life balance.
- Department for Education (2014) Teachers’ workload diary survey 2013. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teachers-workload-diary-survey-2013 [Accessed 2nd December 2014].
- NASUWT (2014) The Big Question 2014. Available at: http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/TrainingEventsandPublications/NASUWTPublications/Publications/order/summary/index.htm?ContentID=NASUWT_012741 [Accessed 2nd December 2014].
- Ofsted (2014) Ofsted inspections – clarification for schools. Available at: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/ofsted-inspections-clarification-for-schools [Accessed 2nd December 2014].
Photo: Jirka Matousek