Education Secretary vows to supports schools in cutting teacher workload
Education Secretary Damian Hinds has vowed that the government will stop requesting pupil statistics and analysis from schools beyond each “school’s existing format,” after a governmental advisory group’s report found that UK teachers are “drowning in meaningless data.”
Research from the Workload Advisory Group – set up by the Department for Education to monitor teacher workloads – found that teachers are too often feeling obliged to devote hours every week to collecting data which ultimately serves no use.
The report found that a culture of data collection is impacting teachers’ workloads, with teachers spending less than half their work week teaching in order to make time for paperwork, planning, marking and other tasks.
In response to the findings, leading figures in British education including Education Secretary Damian Hinds and Ofsted head Amanda Spielman co-signed a letter to head teachers, encouraging schools to feel confident in “cutting out unnecessary work and helping staff devote their energies to teaching.”
Hinds acknowledged that “Many teachers are having to work way too many hours each week on unnecessary tasks, including excessive time spent on marking and data analysis.”
He further clarified that “Frequent data drops and excessive monitoring of a child’s progress are not required by Ofsted or by the Department for Education.”
Nonetheless, the WAG found that the government and Ofsted were contributing to the “audit culture” facing schools – with teachers being asked to record, monitor and analyse data for both Ofsted and local and central government as well as various levels of school management.
Report blames “audit culture” for teacher burnouts
The report highlighted a “spurious precision” in current monitoring of student performance, with some teachers surveyed being expected to analyse as many as 30 different elements of data for 30 children in a class.
It found that this obsession with statistics was having a negative impact on teachers’ wellbeing, with many suffering from anxiety and burnouts due to the administrative pressures of data collection.
The workload of teachers in England is frequently cited amongst the highest in the world by researchers, with several reports blaming excessive workload for the number of experienced British teachers leaving education.
Chair of the Workload Advisory Group and UCL Institute of Education professor Becky Allen underlined that her group’s research demonstrated that “widespread data practices …don’t help pupil progress but do increase teacher workload”.
The advisory group’s recommendations to remedy the problem included calls for a renewed support for school leaders in altering policies to cut down on useless data collection.
This support should be reinforced by government and regulatory officials no longer requesting data attainment from schools beyond statutory requirements.
In addition, the report recommends that Ofsted inspectors be required to take into consideration whether a school’s data collection practices are efficient when evaluating campuses.
Data collection not effective in boosting pupil performance
Hinds agreed with the report’s suggestions that the culture of data collection was likely damaging the quality of actual teaching, stating:
“As a teacher you want to inspire children, you want to develop them, you want to bring the absolute best out of every child.”
“You’re much more likely to be able to do that to best effect if you’re sharp and wide awake and not frustrated by filling in a load of Excel spreadsheets.”
In a bid to address the issue, the Education Secretary promised to produce new guidance for the government’s workload reduction tool kit.
The new advice will encourage schools to avoid requiring teachers to write lengthy, descriptive data input or use complicated behaviour codes in labelling students and will also emphasise that all data collection should be factored into school time rather than expected of teachers after hours.
In addition, the government will look into whether schools would benefit from a separate “tool or checklist on effective data use”, with such a tool to be developed and rolled out next year if results are positive.
The Department for Education did not take up the advisory report’s recommendation to discourage academy trusts from requesting performance data updates from all their schools and not just those that are failing, instead simply saying that it would “communicate this expectation to local authorities.”
Since the report however, the department has published new advice for initial teacher training (ITT) providers, ordering providers not to impose “overly burdensome” workloads on trainee teachers.
The government guidance asks providers to “stop trainees from carrying out any tasks that are established through custom rather than evidence” and urges them to take steps to safeguard the mental health of trainees, by teaching “good habits” including effective time management and resilience strategies.
Improving Performance Management
Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.
To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 3411 1080