Commenting on the passing of motion 11 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“What has been clear over the past 12 months is that the workload facing staff in schools and colleges remains stubbornly high. Even in normal circumstances, teachers work some of the longest hours of any profession, and certainly in excess of the recommended maximum of 48 hours per week set out in the working time regulations. The Department for Education’s own research bears this out.

“Our members tell us that keeping workloads at an acceptable level is absolutely essential to rebuild from the past year. 85% of the 10,000+ members responding to our latest survey put it at the very top of the agenda. (1) They are crying out for the space to concentrate on their essential role, not the endless demands of a data-obsessed government. In many workplaces members have come together in order to challenge the causes of high workload – but not all of it can be resolved at school or college level.

“The problem of high workload predates the pandemic and will, unfortunately, survive it.

“A starting point on the road to solving workload would be for Government to make a serious commitment on funding. Real-term cuts over many years have caused much damage, forcing class sizes to increase, subject options to narrow, buildings to fall apart and staffing levels to drop. Clearly if there was a truly restorative investment in schools and colleges, one that would allow large class sizes to become a thing of the past, then the benefits would be immense and lasting for all.

“This is, however, only part of the way in which we should tackle workload. If young people’s learning is indeed the same priority of Government as it is for school and college staff, then the culture of ‘data, data, data’ must end. Ofsted and performance tables are crude and unhelpful and distract from the essential work of a school. 82% of members want flexibility in the curriculum right now so they can respond individually to the needs of their students, which is surely the most important thing we can do as professionals as schools and colleges emerge from Covid.”