Developing a workload campaign in your workplace

Any actions to tackle excessive workload and working hours will be more effective if taken together, with staff and leaders working collaboratively to make a positive change across the whole workplace. Many National Education Union members have reduced workload in many workplaces using the strategy set out in this section.

The more members who participate, the greater the impact will be. Remember that you can use this approach to tackle just one workload concern or more than one - it is up to you and your colleagues to identify and take forward the issues of main concern.

  1. Talk to your colleagues. The first step is always to share your concerns with your colleagues and start a conversation about them. Ask one of your National Eductaion Union reps to arrange a meeting of members to discuss the issues. If you don’t have a rep, organise a meeting yourself or contact our organising team.
  2. What are the issues? Find out which issues members are concerned about and care about most - there may be other commonly shared concerns. Use the checklist in our workload toolkit to identify your priorities, adding further issues as needed.
  3. Meet with your colleagues. Don’t just rely on one lunchtime meeting to find out about workload concerns:
    • identify volunteers to talk to other colleagues and collect/collate evidence and views
    • hold informal and creative discussions at other times eg coffee breaks or lunch periods
    • organise a survey using the tools available on the ATL and NUT section websites
    • use the workload tracker to collect workload data
    •  raise the issue through staff meetings or other communication systems.
    • Issues affecting individual members shouldn’t be regarded as solely matters of casework. Organise around these as well – solutions which are secured for individual members can also be the basis of improved working conditions for other members.
  4. Encourage your colleagues to be part of a campaign. Look in particular for issues which are:
    • widely felt and deeply felt by colleagues
    • winnable or partly winnable
    • easy to understand and non-divisive
    • likely to result in a real improvement in working lives and demonstrate the value of National Education Union membership.
  5. Making decisions. When making decisions, make sure they are “solution focused”:
    • use the responses to initiate further discussion and develop concrete suggestions for changes in working practices that will reduce workload
    • if you can, find case studies of successful work-life balance in other workplaces
    • set out the impact that areas of concern have on students and the school or college as well as on staff.
  6. Meeting your head or principal. Once you secure a consensus that members want issues to be addressed, seek a meeting with the head teacher/principal. Make use of any existing structure for union consultation meetings - and if there isn’t one, ask for one to be established as a regular means of communication in your workplace. Your rep should be accompanied by other members if additional support is needed.
  7. Decide the issues you want to focus on. Take a collaborative approach as far as possible - explain that National Education Union members have discussed the issues, identified concerns and proposed solutions to reduce excessive workload, allowing staff to focus time on tasks which contribute to pupil learning and create a healthy workplace. Seek to work together with your managers in discussing the evidence and proposed solutions in order to reach an agreement.
  8. Reaching an agreement. If you reach an acceptable agreement with your head teacher/principal, you should all congratulate yourselves on joining the many other groups of National Education Union members who have succeeded in improving their working conditions. You should also ask your head teacher/principal to meet with staff representatives on a regular basis - perhaps once a term - to discuss workload issues. It is legitimate that this professional discussion takes place.
  9. What to do if your proposal isn't accepted. If the head teacher/principal doesn’t accept your proposals and insists that members will be required to continue working in a way which creates excessive workload, contact the National Education Union. We will arrange to come and meet with you all, and discuss ways in which the issue could be revisited with your head teacher/principal. There are several strategic options available to members in schools to press the issue, including industrial action. As part of the discussion with your local officer you could discuss whether members are willing to take part in an industrial action ballot.
  10. Taking action. The National Education Union will always make every effort to resolve disputes before industrial action - but remember that even the threat of action often persuades school leaders or governors to respect concerns about workload and its impact on staff and students. In the vast majority of schools where members have threatened strike action, the situation has been resolved without the action taking place. If it is necessary for you to take industrial action, any loss of pay in these circumstances will be reimbursed by the National Education Union.

Action Short of Strike Action

The NUT section’s national Action Short of Strike Action programme secured significant beneficial changes for many teachers.

Changes to working practices secured through Action Short of Strike Action in the past should be seen as permanent, not temporary. The National Education Union has not carried out a national ballot on Action Short of Strike Action, so members wishing to take any new industrial action will need the support of a new industrial action ballot which would cover all National Education Union members including former ATL and NUT members.

Where teachers have previously stopped undertaking particular activities as part of Action Short of Strike Action, however, this should be regarded as a permanent change in working practices not as “ongoing action” and can continue irrespective of the lapsing of the national ballot as long as members are not still regularly asked to undertake work which they then refuse each time. A further ballot can and should be organised if managers issue fresh instructions to teachers to undertake the activities in question.

For more help and advice on starting your workload campaign, download our workload guidance.


07 November 2017