Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Inspect Wellbeing to Bring Workload under Control

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Inspect Wellbeing to Bring Workload under Control

Article excerpt

As review groups report back, advisers call for Ofsted to judge schools on their treatment of teachers

Ofsted must hold schools accountable for teachers' wellbeing to make a real difference to their excessive workload, government advisers have told TES.

One suggested that teachers could help the inspectorate to make these judgements by providing anonymous reviews of schools when they moved jobs.

"I would propose some sort of national system where, whenever a teacher leaves a job, they leave a write-up on a national database detailing the answers to questions on why they're leaving," said David Didau, a member of the marking workload review group. "So, if there was cause for concern, an inspector could have a look at that information and say that there's a bit of a pattern."

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On Saturday, the three government-appointed review groups on marking, data management, and planning and resources published their recommendations for reducing teacher workload (see box, opposite).

Their findings were accepted in full by ministers and given a cautious welcome by teaching unions. But members of the review groups have suggested that really tackling workload would require Ofsted to make a new judgement when it inspects schools.

"One of the levers that I think would make this successful is to have teacher wellbeing as something schools are held accountable for," Mr Didau, a teaching consultant and blogger, said. "As a starting point, schools would have to account [to Ofsted] for their turnover. Say 25 members of staff have left - is that all down to random chance or have they all decided to leave because they've burned out?"

Matthew Stevenson, a member of the data management review group, suggested that Ofsted should introduce a new teacher wellbeing judgement "on a trial basis to gauge the impact it has".

Last week, Sam Freedman, an adviser to Michael Gove when he was education secretary, reached a similar conclusion. "Ofsted needs to go further and actively penalise schools that create unsustainable working conditions," the executive director of programmes at Teach First wrote in TES.

The review group reports do include recommendations for Ofsted. But they are confined to specific areas such as ensuring that there are no particular expectations of marking practice from inspectors.

Mr Stevenson, assistant head at Henbury School, a Bristol secondary, does have some reservations about the introduction of a broader workload and wellbeing judgement.

"It could become another hoop that schools have to jump through," he said. "There are so many myths around Ofsted - there will be myths about what you have to do as a school to pass the workload test."

Teaching unions are also concerned about how much difference the review groups' recommendations will make in practice.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said that if ministers "really wanted to reduce workload" they should set a target for the number of hours teachers worked, like the 35-hour week in Scottish teachers' contracts.

"They said that they didn't want a target because this was down to what heads and schools would decide in their own institutions," Ms Blower said. "I think that suggests that if there are good things in this guidance then there may very well be schools that follow it and there may be ones that don't. …

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