ATL rejects Workload Challenge and launches its own investigation into teacher workload

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Taking a stand: Teachers vote on a motion during the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ annual conference in Liverpool (Photo: Sarah Turton)

Having rejected the government's response to the Workload Challenge, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is to launch its own investigation into the causes of high workload in the profession.

Delegates at the union's annual conference in Liverpool approved plans to investigate the tasks that are taking up increasing amounts of teacher and support staff time.

Moving a motion on workload, ATL member Christopher Dutton, from Wiltshire, warned that teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers, quoting figures showing that in the last 12 months almost 50,000 qualified teachers have quit.

He told delegates: "Many teachers are working in excess of 60 hours a week which is simply not healthy and simply not acceptable."

ATL was among the unions that attacked the Department for Education's response to the Workload Challenge earlier this year for its lack of "tangible" actions to tackle the issues raised.

The consultation, launched by education secretary Nicky Morgan, garnered 44,000 responses from teachers. High on the list of the causes of workload reported were lesson planning, assessment, reporting, inspection preparation and marking.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted used part of her keynote address to attack the failure of the Workload Challenge and highlight the recruitment and retention crisis.

Quoting an ATL analysis, she warned that the "crisis of teacher supply" is happening right at the start of careers. She blamed this on trainee teachers and NQTs seeing first-hand the "exhaustion and stress" of colleagues and a profession that is "monitored to within an inch of its life".

Dr Bousted quoted 2011 figures showing that 62 per cent of NQTs who gained qualified teacher status that year were still teaching a year later. The same figure for 2005 was 80 per cent.

She added: "That's almost 11,000 qualified teachers never entering the profession – taking work elsewhere. Work with better pay and reasonable workload."

Dr Bousted said the Workload Challenge had been a "golden opportunity" to tackle the issues of accountability demands and in-school bureaucracy raised by the 44,000 respondents, but that "this opportunity was lost".

Moving his motion, Mr Dutton echoed the Workload Challenge consultation outcomes, referring to workload drivers including lesson planning, assessment and reporting, Ofsted, lesson observations, learning walks and marking.

He continued: "Having 120 books a day to mark, everything has to be marked at the end of the day, triple-marking – responding to students' responses to their marking. It is the level and detail and bureaucracy that is wearing teachers down."

Other teachers stood up to support Mr Dutton's motion, with the hall hearing stories of a trainee teacher who was hospitalised due to stress and another NQT who said that teachers were crying in her school "on a daily basis".

The motion, which was passed by delegates, instructs ATL to undertake research to find out "how workload has changed in recent years and ascertain which tasks are taking up an increasing amount of time". It will also focus on the impact of excessive workloads on recruitment and retention of education professionals and make recommendations as to how workload can be reduced, including for NQTs and trainee teachers.

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