Teachers warn of sharp rise in workload as Covid infection rates rise

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Overloaded teachers have called for more resources, including more teaching staff, to ensure remote learning provision is sustainable in the months ahead.

Research involving 6,445 teachers has found that 82 per cent do not feel they are being given the support they need to do their job effectively during the coronavirus pandemic.

Carried out by the NASUWT teaching union between September 25 and 29, the survey finds that workload has increased for three quarters (74 per cent) of teachers and more than half (56 per cent) say they go without regular breaks.

At the same time, teachers are being expected to develop and deliver remote education, with 86 per cent of the respondents saying there is an expectation they will do this work in addition to their current workload.

It comes as the latest government attendance figures show that 93 per cent of state-funded schools were fully open on September 24, down from 94 per cent the week before.

“Fully open” is defined as being able to “provide face-to-face teaching for all pupils on roll for the whole school day and that they have not asked a group of pupils to self-isolate”.

The fall is mainly due to a sharp drop in the number of secondary schools fully open (from 92 to 84 per cent). The number of state primaries fully open has remained broadly stable at 95 per cent. Primary school attendance meanwhile has increased from 88 to 91 per cent.

Of those schools not fully open, the official Department for Education analysis said this was “mostly due to Covid-19 related reasons” (DfE, 2020).

The NASUWT fears that the pressure on staff is only going to increase as more children and school staff are forced to self-isolate and more schools put into action contingency plans for remote learning alongside the delivery of in-school teaching.

General secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Teachers are telling us they are experiencing massive strain on their workload and the provision of remote education is simply not sustainable without substantial additional resources, including extra teachers, to enable this to happen.

“If the government is serious about children’s education, then it must do whatever it takes to ensure that schools have the extra resources and funding they need to continue to provide education in these extremely challenging circumstances.”

Meanwhile, the National Education Union has renewed its calls for retired, supply and newly qualified teachers to be drafted into so-called “Nightingale classrooms”.

The idea is that the extra staff would help to reduce class sizes in schools, while the Nightingale classrooms will expand school space to help schools maintain effective social distancing.

The issue is likely to be debated by NEU members during a special online conference on Saturday (October 3). For details, see our report here.

Joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “With such a rapid drop in the number of fully open secondary schools in the space of just two weeks, it is clear the government's grip on the situation is now in question. This does not just begin and end with testing, although that situation is parlous enough.

“‘Nightingale classes’ will be necessary to expand school space – we have been calling for that since June. We also need proper funding support to schools, so that they can remain Covid-secure.”

At the same time, a number of education unions have called for the suspension of performance tables for this academic year and a postponement of plans to resume Ofsted inspections in January.

The attendance figures also show that 99.8 per cent of state-funded schools were open – but not necessarily fully open – on September 24, down from 99.9 per cent on September 17. Approximately 88 per cent of all children on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on September 24 – this figure has remained stable for three weeks now.

  • DfE: Week 39: Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, September 29, 2020: https://bit.ly/3ijTxfs

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