The Independent Teacher Workload Review Groups were established by the DfE to report on, and suggest solutions to, unnecessary burdens associated with marking, planning and data management.

The DfE report on planning - Reducing teacher workload: Planning and Resources Group report -  could not be clearer when it states: ‘Teachers spend an undue amount of time planning and resourcing lessons and there are clear measures that should be taken by Government, Ofsted, schools and teachers to lesson this burden. The report highlights that effective planning is the key to effective teaching but seeks to address the unnecessary nature of the work and lesson plans. 

What does the DfE report identify as the main problems with the way planning is often carried out in schools?

The report is scathing about the practice of creating detailed plans which can become a ‘box-ticking exercise’, taking time away from the real business of planning whilst offering ‘false comfort’ of purpose. The blame for this is placed firmly at the door of the Government and Ofsted and the ‘real and perceived’ demands they have made. In the past, there has been much focus on the ‘perceived’ demands of Ofsted and Government so it is helpful that the report acknowledges that these demands have also been ‘real’. The NEU wholeheartedly welcomes the following statement, which has also been endorsed by the then Secretary of State: ‘Too often, ‘planning’ refers to the production of daily written lesson plans which function as proxy evidence for an accountability ‘paper trail’ rather than the process of effective planning.

Debunking planning myths

  • Planning is vital, the daily lesson plan much less so.Sharing your planning and resources, and using other people’s, doesn’t make you a bad teacher.
  • Spending time finding (or creating) the ‘perfect’ resource doesn’t make you a better teacher.
  • You can use high-quality textbooks to support planning and teaching, not to replace your professional knowledge and skill.
  • Ofsted doesn’t require individual lesson plans during an inspection or past plans.
  • You can’t judge good teaching by seeing a lesson plan.

Advice for National Education Union members

As National Education Union members, get together and consider these challenges:

Can you stop writing out plans for every lesson – for a week, for a phase, for a subject, forever; can you adapt plans or resources from another teacher or a previous year? If so, use the time to engage in the following challenges:

  • Do you have schemes of work? Can you agree on a programme of review and development over the next few terms so that everyone has ownership and will feel able to use and adapt them?
  • Are there blocks of time available for planning when other teachers are available so that you can plan together? Do you know how to plan collaboratively and effectively so that you are improving your own subject knowledge as well as your teaching and the children’s learning?
  • Do you have any externally produced resources? Can you adapt them to meet your needs? Is there any money for new resources: how will you evaluate what’s available?
  • Are you expected to plan every subject, or every phase, in the same way? Can you discuss with your SLT/governors what effective planning looks like across different subjects and phases?
  • • Do you know what impact your planning has on pupil progress? Can you agree on a project with your school leaders to review the impact of planning with the aim of minimising unnecessary demands on teachers’ time
  • Think about how SLT can evidence effective planning and teaching without the need to see written lesson plans.
  • Does your planning policy have a workload impact assessment? If not, ask management to draw one up for consultation with NEU members.

Full DfE report

You and your colleagues can use the NEU  guide on Tackling Workload Together to successfully secure change in your workplace.


Download now

07 November 2017