Hinds addressed head teachers at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) conference in Birmingham that the Government will “strip away” pointless tasks, that add to increase workload pressure, including excessive lesson plans and unnecessary marking, which do not help children learn. He also confirmed there’ll be no more new changes to primary tests, GCSEs or A-levels.
The newly appointed secretary who’s been in the role for three months admitted that an increase in pupil numbers is making it harder to recruit and retain teachers for schools. On one hand the number of secondary school teachers have been falling since 2010 whilst on the other secondary school pupil numbers are due to increase by 540,000 by 2025, according to the Department for Education’s (DfE) official forecast.
He acknowledged heavy workload of teachers and school leaders has led to one of the biggest threats to retention and recruitment.
“Too many of our teachers and our school leaders are working too long hours, and on non-teaching tasks that are not helping children to learn,” said Hinds.
He told head teachers: “It has been tough, funding is tight, I don’t deny that all.”
However there were calls from the conference floor for Mr Hinds to “answer the question” over problems with school funding.
The education secretary accepted: “I understand why that’s people’s number one issue. I understand why, for everyone in this room, the funding of our schools and colleges is such an important topic.”
In his first speech to heads and teachers since becoming education secretary, Mr Hinds said that tackling the teacher shortage was a “top priority.”
For five successive years, recruitment targets for teaching have been missed and schools have complained of the expense and disruption of relying on temporary staff or having to use teachers who are not specialists in the subjects they are teaching.
Damian Hinds together with Ofsted chief, Amanda Spielman spoke of the need to avoid any unnecessary bureaucracy around inspections. She promised a review on how Ofsted can help to reduce teacher workload.
She spoke: “It really doesn’t matter what an inspectorate thinks if we can’t attract good people into teaching.”
“The record number of good and outstanding schools won’t be sustained if the people, who make them run so well, are burning out and leaving the profession.”
“When I see newly qualified teachers brimming with passion to change young lives for the better, I think it an utter travesty that so many end up losing their early enthusiasm, because of the pressures of the job. Especially when so many of those pressures are entirely unnecessary.”
“Because that’s what endless data cuts, triple marking, 10 page lesson plans, and, worst of all, Mocksteds are – a distraction from the core purpose of education.”
“We must do all we can to support removing unnecessary workload for teachers and school leaders … and direct the focus back to what matters.”
Mr Barton, ASCL’s general secretary, supported the push to cut workload.
The heads’ union has warned repeatedly of the recruitment problems facing schools, particularly in maths and science. They’ve warned that the ways into teaching have become confusingly complicated and need to be simplified. But Mr Barton said head teachers should work differently to reduce workload in their own schools, such as cutting needless meetings or administration.
“In the longer term, we’re the generation who needs to redefine what it is to be a teacher in the 21st Century, to make sure we don’t become the Luddite profession, doing things in the way we’ve always done them.”
NEU’s joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said cracking workload required more school funding, and the accountability system needed “fundamental reform, not tinkering”. He welcomed the recognition of the “teacher shortage crisis” but he called on the Government to look at low pay and funding cuts.
Mr Courtney said: “The Government needs more than ambition if these efforts are to work.”
“The Government needs to recognise that funding cuts are also now driving up workload – with class sizes increasing in two-thirds of secondary schools and teachers facing cut backs in preparation time.”
He added: “And the Government needs to recognise that it must deal with the growing uncompetitiveness of teacher pay.”
Labour’s shadow schools minister, Mike Kane, said: “This government can’t offer a solution to the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention because they created it.
“If the government were serious about ending the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention they would match Labour’s fully-funded commitment to scrap the public sector pay cap and give our teachers the pay rise they deserve.”
March 12, 2018