ASCL General Secretary declares war on excessive teacher workload

10 March 2018

ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton will today declare war on excessive teacher workload as part of a joint effort with the government to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis in our schools and colleges.

Mr Barton will open the second day of the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders in Birmingham ahead of speeches from education secretary Damian Hinds and Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman. The three speakers will then jointly discuss how they will address the workload pressure on teachers and leaders.

Mr Barton will tell delegates: “We call upon government and other agencies to do all they can to reduce the bureaucratic burden on teachers and leaders, to work with us to recalibrate accountability, to measure what we value and not just value what can be measured.

“But it’s not just about them. It’s also about us. At its heart, teacher workload is an issue for us as leaders: we hold all the cards. In the short-term, that’s about doing what we can to strip out the meetings, administration and monitoring practices that deflect teachers from their core classroom purpose.

“In the longer term, we’re the generation who needs to redefine what it is to be a teacher in the twenty-first century, to make sure we don’t become the Luddite profession, doing things in the way we’ve always done them.

“We need to explore how technology and artificial intelligence can take some of the routine activities from teachers’ lives, providing more nuanced assessment feedback, freeing teachers to work directly with their classes of young people.”

He will say that too few people want to become teachers and too many leave the profession too early. “We are losing good people of deep experience – people who have taught and retaught topics and skills, honing their practice, refining their craft, and becoming ever better as teachers. We need more people like them in our classrooms,” he will say.

In addition to tackling teacher workload, he will call for other measures to address the crisis.

He will say: “Routes into teaching currently feel to the outsider more complicated than locating the Da Vinci code. The entry process needs to be made simpler, the career strategy more coherent. It’s why ASCL welcomes the Department’s proposals for strengthening qualified teacher status and teachers’ continuing professional development. It’s part of a process of further professionalising our profession.

“And we have to tell a better story about teaching – to the world outside but also within our schools and colleges.

“After fifteen years of headship, I now regret that I didn’t appropriate an assembly each year for this purpose – asking members of staff at different points in their career to talk about why they became teachers, what they love about the job, their memorable moments, and the teacher who had inspired them. From fresh-faced trainee to the grizzled staffroom veteran – they’d be united in articulating the pleasures of the job to an audience of young people who perhaps hadn’t thought of teaching as a career.”