At long last the government has recognised that an excessive workload is the cause of teachers exiting in their droves (Survey finds 40% of teachers want to quit in next five years, April 16). But ministers have refused to face up to the central problem – that this overbearing workload has been caused by the pressures of an unnecessary accountability regime they have imposed on schools.
Preparing children for incessant statutory tests and ensuring there is an audit trail to provide evidence when Ofsted calls is at the heart of why teachers in England have longer working hours than other developed countries. While teacher retention and recruitment worsens, all the government has offered are warm words and ineffective initiatives, the latest one being a “workload reduction toolkit”, which places responsibility for solving the problem on to teachers and schools.
The only way to make workloads manageable is to reduce the number of statutory tests (which are primarily aimed at school accountability rather than aiding children’s learning) and refocus inspections on school development rather than the handing down of absolutist judgments.
Author of Building a Learning Nation
• Unlike many other occupations, teaching is never-ending; there’s always more to do and higher expectations to fulfil. The fact that many teachers are perfectionists doesn’t help. Teachers have always worked hard, and willingly, but it’s been on matters they considered important to their sense of professionalism. They see the current raft of accountability demands as not only unrealistic and bureaucratic, but also demeaning and demoralising. Small wonder that too many are considering leaving.
The government and Ofsted have much to answer for, and much to do, to staunch this near-fatal professional haemorrhaging.
Professor Colin Richards
Former primary school teacher, Spark Bridge, Cumbria
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