From education to employment

Supporting teachers through the school workload

Richard Churches Principal Adviser - Research and Evidence Based Practice, Education Development Trust

Education Development Trust (@EdDevTrust) report on school-led projects aimed at reducing teacher workload 

Reducing teacher workload can make an important contribution to improving teacher retention and wellbeing. The government has been supporting school-led strategies that address the issue. However, the potential wider effects of reducing teacher activity in areas such as marking, planning and data recording on pupil attainment and progress are less understood.

The Department for Education (DfE) provided funding for the Teaching Schools Council (TSC) to promote the School Workload Reduction Toolkit and support schools to use it in ways that worked in their own contexts. The TSC representatives encouraged schools from across England to use the toolkit to identify priority areas and adopt new practices to address them. Education Development Trust was commissioned to support schools in assessing the impact of any changes they made.

Teachers designed studies to look at the effects of a wide range of workload reduction strategies on three key elements:

  1. Teacher time, spent on activities such as cross-school communications, collating and reporting pupil data, lesson planning and monitoring, and feedback and marking
  2. Teacher wellbeing, and
  3. Pupil learning outcomes

Most studies took place over one term and investigated areas such as marking and feedback, lesson planning, monitoring, data reporting and communication policies. Despite the short length of time over which the studies were conducted, the approach generated useful findings that illustrate how workload can be significantly reduced without having a detrimental effect on pupil outcomes, while at the same time improving teacher wellbeing.

Findings Teacher designed interventions significantly reduced teacher time conducting the targeted tasks, i.e. approaches to marking and feedback, lesson planning, managing pupil data, internal communications, and lesson observation and monitoring.

Where schools measured wellbeing, using valid and reliable scales from the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP)1, wellbeing overall improved. There were 5 significant reductions on the workaholism scale (the IPIP scale used to assess the extent to which teachers were working too hard) and significant increases in selfefficacy (a personal judgment of “how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations”).

Across the studies overall, reducing teacher workload was associated with a period of maintained or improved pupil outcomes. For alternative marking and feedback approaches that provided individual feedback in the classroom, there may have been attainment and progress improvements alongside the reductions in teacher workload outside of class. Effective strategies included immediate formative assessment and teaching pupils metacognitive strategies to plan, monitor and evaluate how well they learn.


Supporting teachers through the school workload reduction toolkit: March 2020

PDF, 3.9MB, 31 pages


EDT report on the recent project with schools from around England and the Teaching Schools Council (TSC). Based on resources from the School workload reduction toolkit, schools introduced new practices aimed at reducing teacher workload.

The aim was to understand better the potential wider effects of reducing teacher activity in areas such as:

  • marking and feedback
  • lesson planning
  • monitoring
  • data recording
  • communication policies

The overall findings of the project were that:

  • teacher-designed interventions significantly reduced teacher time
  • teacher wellbeing improved overall
  • reducing teacher workload was associated with a period of maintained or improved pupil outcomes

Printable project posters produced by schools

36 schools took part in the project with the TSC and EDT. The schools produced printable project posters explaining what they did and the results of their approaches. They are designed to be printed on A3 paper.

Schools displayed their posters at a celebration event in London in March 2020.

Related Articles