Clegg to target teaching workload


Published: Wednesday 22nd October 2014 by The News Editor

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Teachers are being forced to spend too much time on pointless box-ticking, form-filling and unnecessary work, Nick Clegg will warn today.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader is expected to say that he wants to end the “runaway train of bureaucracy”, and free up teachers to spend more time in the classroom.

In a speech, Mr Clegg is due to call on school staff to put forward examples of paperwork and administration they believe should be scrapped or cut down, as well as potential solutions, as part of a new “workload challenge”.

These ideas will be examined in the new year by a panel led by teachers and other education experts who will come up with a programme of action to deal with issues.

Some people are still under the “misguided” impression that teaching is a profession built around short days and long holidays, Mr Clegg will say.

“Talk to a teacher and they’ll tell you about their working week of 50 hours or more. They’ll also tell you how much of this time they feel is wasted on unnecessary processes, box-ticking and form-filling.

“We’re talking about hours spent struggling to stay on top of piles of incident reports, over-detailed lesson plan templates, health and safety forms, departmental updates, training requests and so on that threaten to engulf them every week. Not to mention the reams of additional evidence which teachers pull together because of a long-held belief that Ofsted inspectors want to see everything written down.

“Some of this work is unavoidable. Every school needs to ensure the safety of its pupils and staff and maintain the highest standards possible. But should you really have to fill in multiple risk assessment forms for every school trip when just one form would be better?

“Ask any teacher and they’ll give you at least two more examples like that: whether it’s having to highlight their lesson plans in five different colours or inputting every pupil’s marks into countless different spreadsheets in countless different ways at regular points in the year.

“I believe it’s time for us to stop that runaway train of bureaucracy in its tracks, giving our teachers more time to do what they do best: creating and planning the best possible lessons and experiences for our children.”

International evidence suggests that teachers in England work a 48-hour week on average, with only 20 of those spent in the classroom, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office said.

The rest of their time is taken up with tasks such as administration, lesson preparation and marking, with data showing that England’s teachers spend more time on these tasks than those in countries with high-performing education systems.

Speaking at a south London school, Mr Clegg will say that teachers can submit their ideas for the workload challenge, also supported by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, via a dedicated page on the Times Educational Supplement’s (TES) website.

“We’re asking teachers across the country to take a long, hard look at how they spend their working day and what pointless processes and paperwork they think should be cut or scrapped altogether,” he will say.

The announcement will come in a speech in which the Deputy Prime Minister will also insist that the country is “back on track”.

Mr Clegg will say that once the books have been balanced, the Lib Dems will increase public spending in line with economic growth, but also acknowledged that there will be no immediate pay rise for public sector workers.

“We will borrow less than Labour, but we’ll cut less than the Tories,” he says.

“We’ll finish the job, but we’ll finish it in a way that is fair too.

“And while I would love to come here today to tell you this means immediate relief from the pressure you’ve been under on pay, you know as well as I do, it simply isn’t possible yet.”

Mr Clegg will also say: “There is light at the end of the tunnel under the Liberal Democrats’ fiscal plans: once the deficit is gone and public spending is growing, we will be able to deliver a better financial deal for all those who work in our public services.”

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: ” You can’t trust a word Nick Clegg says – he is part of the Government that has denigrated the professionalism of teachers, allowing unqualified teachers into classrooms, dismissing the profession as ‘enemies of promise’ and letting teacher workload spiral.

“His attempts to distance himself from his own Government’s dismal record on teacher workload will be met with great scepticism and the teaching profession will be right to hold him to account for the decisions that he has taken.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “ATL is pleased the coalition Government is finally taking teachers’ workloads seriously. It is a tragedy that for so long teachers and school leaders have felt pressurised into doing tasks which do nothing to improve children’s education.

“Teachers are spending too many hours on bureaucratic tasks such as five-page lesson plans, or multi-coloured marking, instead of being allowed to focus on effective teaching and learning to meet the needs of their pupils.”

Published: Wednesday 22nd October 2014 by The News Editor

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