Teacher workload has been a major issue in the education sector for some time. To help address this challenge, the report of the Department for Education’s Workload Advisory Group has today (5 November) been published, alongside a letter from the Secretary of State for Education accepting all of the report’s recommendations and committing to take action.
Amongst other areas, the report makes recommendations for governing boards and in support of these recommendations, NGA has co-signed the secretary of state’s letter to school leaders to encourage and support them in adopting the recommendations in their own context.
The report’s recommendations concerning governing boards, all of which the DfE have accepted, are:
- The DfE should revise the governance handbook, competency framework and other guidance to reflect the principles of this report, and speak to governors to test what guidance and training they need.
- The DfE should also incorporate myth busting for governors into the teacher workload toolkit or other guidance, to address misconceptions of what is required by the DfE or Ofsted and where policy has changed.
- The DfE should also continue to improve the content and usability of Analyse School Performance based on feedback from schools and governors, and place emphasis on supporting governor needs. The DfE should ensure schools are able to access comparative performance information as soon as possible.
On the role of governing boards, the report says “Governors should normally be prepared to receive information in whatever form it is currently being used in the school. They should agree with school and trust leaders what high-quality data they need, and when, in order to fulfil their role effectively and to avoid making unreasonable, ad hoc data requests during the course of the school year. This includes consideration of any in-year data they receive, how meaningful this is and whether this can be reduced.”
To coincide with the report, the DfE have also launched a teacher workload reduction toolkit containing practical tools and materials, which it urges “all school leaders to use … to address the issues in their schools.”
Teacher workload is a concern for many governors and trustees, with two thirds of the respondents to our School Governance in 2018 survey recognising that teacher workload is a problem in their schools. Forty three percent reported having taken steps to reduce it including changes to marking and feedback policies, restrictions on the times of day emails are sent to staff, redistributing responsibilities and increasing the support available to teachers from administrative staff and teaching assistants. Some respondents spoke about giving teachers more non-contact time or a reduction in class sizes – however many respondents told us that they were being forced to do the opposite as a result of funding pressures, underlining that squeezed budgets may be making it difficult for many schools to tackle teacher workload.
Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association said, “We are pleased to see the working group taking in to account NGA’s views on how governing boards can be supported to address this issue, which has been of concern to school governors and trustees for some years. We would like to have a discussion with the Department for Education, Ofsted and the profession about the expectations on governing boards to consider data: this is necessary to fulfil their core function of holding senior leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff. Through our extensive reach to school governing boards, we will endeavour to support and promote the recommendations of this report. In its response to the report, the DfE has also said it wants to do more to reduce the pressures on school leaders and we very much hope this will extend to review governor and trustee workload.”