From education to employment

Teacher workload slashed by five hours a week over past three years

Reduction in workload driven by decrease in time spent on marking, planning and other non-teaching tasks and more support for teachers with flexible working resources and a trial of timesaving technologies to help work-life balance

Teachers’ working hours have fallen by five hours per week over the past three years, according to research published today (Fri 11 Oct).

In the second Teacher Workload Survey, teachers and middle leaders reported working an average of 49.5 hours per week in 2019, down by 4.9 hours compared to 2016. Headteachers and senior leaders also saw a significant fall, to an average of 55.1 hours per week in 2019.

The findings, taken from a representative survey of over 7,000 teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders, showed the reduction has been driven by cuts to time spent on burdensome tasks outside the classroom. Teaching time has remained broadly stable over the period.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“For too long, teachers have been working too many hours on time-consuming admin tasks that simply don’t add value in the classroom.

“But the findings in today’s report give me real optimism that, working with the profession, we are making a real difference, driving down the number of hours teachers work on these burdensome and unnecessary tasks.

“However, I am not complacent, and it’s clear from meeting many teachers across the country that we have more to do.

“Today, I’m announcing how schools across the country stand to benefit from our £14 billion pound investment. As well as further measures to support staff through new technology to improve timetabling and curriculum resources to reduce planning time, this funding should help to ensure teachers spend more time doing what they do best, teaching our children.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Whilst any reduction of teacher working hours is to be welcomed, it is premature of Government to claim they are winning the war on workload. 

“It is good that teachers are spending less time on marking and planning, but the numbers for time spent on data collection are still stubbornly high and reflect the toxic accountability system which is the main driver of teachers leaving the profession earlier and earlier in their careers. Ofsted’s new inspection framework is creating rising workload again.

“Given this reality, teachers will view the government’s figures with incredulity. We know that one third of newly qualified teachers leave within five years. And just this year, 40% of members predicted they will no longer be in education in five years time.

“Last month, the UCL published a compelling historical study of teacher workload which showed that one in four teachers work 60-hour weeks. This is completely unacceptable. That study also cast doubt on whether the most recent DfE workload surveys were accurate.  If they were not, the reduction shown by this survey may be over-estimated.  That would certainly be more consistent with what our members are telling us.”

Teachers and middle leaders in primary schools reported working an average of 12.5 hours during weekends and evenings, down by 5.0 hours compared to 2016. For secondary teachers, this came to an average of 13.1 out-of-school hours, a reduction of 3.8 hours compared to 2016.

To ensure that teaching remains an attractive profession, and the most talented teachers are motivated to stay in the classroom, the Department is working to meet commitments in the Recruitment & Retention Strategy. These include:

  1. Announcing a significant step towards early roll-out of the Early Career Framework programme in  Bradford, Doncaster, the North East and Greater Manchester, from September 2020 – the appointment of providers of fully funded support packages for new teachers and mentors;
  2. Launching a new opportunity for schools and colleges to participate in the EdTech Innovation Testbed, helping to identify digital tools that can reduce teacher workload as well as trialling ‘best-in-class’ timetabling software to facilitate flexible working;
  3. Launching an expressions of interest process for schools and colleges to apply to become EdTech Demonstrators – providing peer-to-peer support on the use of technology, including for tackling teacher workload;
  4. Updating the school workload reduction toolkit, which contains practical materials for schools to tackle teacher workload, to make it easier to use, with better navigation and simpler, reduced text;
  5. Announcing an extension of nine Curriculum Fund pilots for up to an additional two terms, after initial research showed almost half of teachers said that their workload had decreased, saving teachers time from creating schemes and lesson plans from scratch; and  
  6. Publishing flexible working resources, including case studies to provide practical support for schools in implementing further flexible working for teachers and leaders.

Ambition Institute, Education Development Trust, Teach First, and UCL, Institute of Education (IOE) have been awarded contracts to provide high-quality support packages for schools in early roll-out areas. They will produce and deliver these programmes working with a range of regional partners. New teachers and mentors in Bradford, Doncaster, the North East and Greater Manchester will be able to benefit from materials and training as part of early roll-out of the Early Career Framework programme from September 2020.

Headteacher of Charles Dickens Primary School and Nursery Cassie Buchanan said:

“The survey outcomes are a positive shift in the right direction and reflect the strong commitment and actions by heads and school leaders.

“At Charles Dickens Primary we no longer give children extensive written feedback. Instead, we spend time identifying what children do not know and planning lessons to address this. We have also reduced data collection so that teachers have more time to adapt lessons for the children in their class and professional learning.

“I have learnt that change for my teachers will only come when senior leaders take positive steps which engage with the evidence of what works for improving children’s outcomes and learning from schools which are already reducing workload successfully.”

Joysy John, Director of Education at Nesta, said:

“By getting schools and colleges to test products in a real world setting we hope to bridge the gap between industry and the education sector. We want schools and colleges from across England to sign up to the testbed.

“Through participating in the Testbed, staff in our schools and colleges will have an opportunity to trial technology products, further their professional development and better understand what works.”  

Matt Davis, UK Director at Education Development Trust.

“We know that the learning curve for teachers is steepest in the early years of their careers, and that high-quality teaching is the biggest in-school factor in raising the attainment of children.

“The Early Career Framework offers a really comprehensive roadmap of the knowledge and competences which will make novice teachers more effective in the classroom. With our support, mentors in their schools will help to develop new teachers’ expertise and make a positive difference to their competence, confidence and motivation at this crucial stage in their careers.”

In January, the Department launched the Government’s first ever integrated strategy to recruit and retain more teachers in schools – developed alongside, and welcomed by, teachers, education unions and leading professional bodies.

This landmark strategy included the biggest teaching reform in a generation – the Early Career Framework – providing the solid foundations for a successful career in teaching, backed by at least £130 million a year in extra funding when fully rolled out.

The Early Career Framework is one of four key priorities set out in the strategy, which describes how we will:

    • Transform support for early career teachers
    • Develop clearer career pathways and put in place steps to support flexible working
    • Help school leaders establish more supportive school cultures with a new Ofsted framework designed to reduce teacher workload
    • Make it easier for great people to join the profession

The workload reduction toolkit – downloaded more than 170,000 times since publication and used by almost half of school leaders – provides practical materials for schools to help crack down on teacher workload. The toolkit is today being updated to make it easier to use, with simplified navigation for heads, school leaders and teachers.

The EdTech Innovation Testbed programme, delivered in partnership with Nesta, will give schools and colleges the opportunity to trial digital tools that could help to reduce workload on assessment, essay marking and parental engagement or by promoting flexible working through timetabling changes. 

Flexible working resources have been published today to provide practical guidance for schools by signposting best practice examples and enabling teachers, school leaders and governors to make the case for and implement flexible working in their schools.

The EdTech demonstrators schools and colleges programme was a commitment made in the DfE education technology strategy published in April “Realising the potential of technology in Education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry”.  Expressions of interest from schools and colleges that meet the minimum criteria can express their interest to become an EdTech Demonstrator up until 22nd November. Further information is available at

The Curriculum Fund pilots were launched last year to provide teachers with ready-made, high-quality lesson plans to reduce unnecessary workload. Eleven pilots have been taking place across England, for science, history and geography, with nine of these to be extended for up to two extra terms. Early findings from independent research on the pilots is available with the attachment on this email.

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