LibLink: Nick Clegg: Why we must reduce teachers’ workloads

Nick Clegg has been writing for the Times Educational Supplement on the need to make sure teachers’ workloads were more manageable. He recognised that most teachers put in much more effort than they get credit for:

There’s an outdated preconception, which hasn’t quite died out, that a teacher’s working day starts at 9am and finishes at 3pm, with 12 weeks off a year to recuperate. Yet, ask anyone who actually spends their days trying to inspire and educate a classroom of children and they’ll tell you a very different story.

They’ll talk about 50 hour working weeks, the unnecessary bureaucracy they have to deal with every day, the challenges of helping children, from all different backgrounds, get the skills they need and also the rewards, like that moment when you see a young boy or girl in your care thrive.

After a middle section in which he outlined the positive Liberal Democrat policies like the Pupil Premium and acknowledged the effects of cuts, he went on to talk about freeing up teachers from bureaucracy:

I also think there’s more we could do to help you. In Coalition, we’ve already handed more control to teachers and schools to train the next generation of education professionals. I want us to look now at establishing a Royal College of Teaching.

Teaching isn’t a job that just anyone can pick up and do. It’s one of the most important, noble jobs you can do and my party wants to ensure that every teacher in our state maintained schools either has Qualified Teacher Status or is working towards it.

In particular, I want to make sure you have more time and freedom to do what you do best – teach. Currently, too much of your packed week is spent filling out unnecessary paperwork, not teaching. I have for some time been keen to tackle this issue and, last year, David Laws – the Liberal Democrat Schools Minister – asked officials to study the options. Now, with a fresh start in the Department for Education, I am confident we can make even more progress.

The last sentence of that paragraph is a bit barbed about Michael Gove.

Now, with a fresh start in the Department for Education, I am confident we can make even more progress.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Many teachers work hard no doubt about it, some work a lot of hours and some are worththeir weight in gold. However, the same could be said of NHS staff, Policemen, Social Workers and many others who don’t get 12 weeks holiday a year. They work hard and are well paid, there isn’t a special case here , nearly every job has too much paperwork and teachers are no exception.

  • Alex Feakes 14th Oct '14 - 7:57pm

    Yes please. Especially the bit about bureacracy – it still amazes me that many schools have some incredible software and technology, but often use very little of its capabilities and often still rely upon filling in paper forms to sort stuff out! (Which is strange, as generally it’s not the paper forms which are unhappy)

    Other issues:
    – staff in management positions who are given more training in how to manage processes than than how to effectively manage and lead people. Effective management of people seems to be given remarkably low priority given that teachers are the expensively procured tools of the output
    – heirarchy / seniority / longevity are more important that ability
    – the transferable experience and skills from previous employment in other fields seem to be little valued
    – most teachers are working at pretty much maximum capacity; there is little time or space mental space for understanding, absorbing and synthesising new rules, regulations and improvements to teaching practice. All teachers and their teaching would benefit from having regular time to do this
    – the great taboo: teachers and schools sorting out problems that start in the home and stem from poor parenting. And I’m not just talking about socio-economically deprived families.

  • Alex Feakes 14th Oct '14 - 8:01pm

    @Malc – work hard, definitely; well paid, maybe; a special case, debatably. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek to improve the way teachers work. There’s been a lot of focus on the NHS and health workers’ conditions in recent weeks, so a senior politician talking about teachers’ conditions for a bit is welcome.

  • Alex Feakes

    Teachers have always got a fair bit of attention. Mr Clegg should try looking at the working conditions of our armed forces, they really need to be looked at.

  • Alex -” that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek to improve the way teachers work. ”

    Totally agree, we do need to establish in schools a “Kaizen” philosophy, perhaps this is something we should get Ofsted to report on…

    BTW I use the Japanese word “Kaizen” as this carries positive emotional and philosophical baggage, compared to the much blander English label “continuous improvement”.

  • RCT isn’t a bad idea, and much better than twaddle about oaths.
    Remind me though how teachers fare in terms of holidays, pay and support compared to other workers?

  • If Nick cares about teachers so much, then why did the Lib Dems vote with the Tories for Gove’s policies which teachers are deeply unhappy with?

  • Want to know what’s going on in schools? Have a glance at yesterday’s Guardian

  • Taking a lesson from George Bernard Shaw (when suggesting a way of reducing the number of poor children in London) we could get half the children in school to cook and eat the other half.
    This would fit in with Clegg’s school dinners policy and reduce the stress on teachers instantly.
    The recipe could end with the words — repeat until the defecit is fully reduced.

    I would suggest taxing the rich so that we could afford to make sure teachers’ workloads were more manageable.

    But such a suggestion would clearly be laughed out of court in 2014.
    The free market solution of children cooking and eating their classmates will no doubt be a key policy in Jeremy Browne’s next book.

  • +1 for Alex Feakes comments. And to Malc I would like to be part of a party that helps support all of these essential workers!

    Teachers are expected to be social workers, sex educators, British Values promoters (!), childminders, behavioral psychologists, club organisers, nutritional experts, careers advisers and anything else a minister may decide is lacking from our younger people without any change in duties, training or time to learn!

    I always thought teachers natural homes were within the party but fear that we may have already lost these votes due to collective cabinet responsibility for Gove’s Daily Mail soundbites.

  • David Evershed 15th Oct '14 - 4:17pm

    Teaching – Vacation or Vocation?

  • Nigel Jones 15th Oct '14 - 5:03pm

    ‘g’ makes a good point. We as a party need to make it clear that we do not support many of Gove’s initiatives. Teachers will welcome recognition of their increasing workload, but this will not enthuse them unless it is accompanied by Education policies they can truly support.
    We should begin by stating clearly in any speech about Education as well as in our manifesto that we want a much better engagement between government and teachers on a whole range of matters. This engagement is for the purpose of improved policy and less interference in the detail by politicians. We also want to provide suitable means for the teachers to organise their own professional development for the sake of our children and young people, continuing to improve the quality (not quantity) of learning and teaching ; this is the point of the proposed Royal College of Teaching. Nick mentioned this proposal in his piece in the TES but did not make it clear what it is about and how it is meant to support and encourage teachers.
    The way he referred to the deficit also detracted hugely from the effect this article was intended to have on teachers. When will Nick learn how to improve our party’s image ?

  • Nigel Jones
    “When will Nick learn how to improve our party’s image ?”

    If he has not learned by now, It is unlikely he ever will.

  • “we want a much better engagement between government and teachers on a whole range of matters … this is the point of the proposed Royal College of Teaching.”

    Grand idea, however, I suggest reviewing the history of the “Institute for Learning” to see how this might pan out. Personally I don’t see the need for yet another “Royal College”, but I do see the need for a professional Society.

  • Rosemary Jolliffe 2nd Nov '14 - 9:07pm

    The whole aspect of teaching has reached extremes. Workload is phenomenal, pressure from above is out of control and the government wonders why so many are leaving the profession. It’s about time the Government spoke to teachers and asked us what we want. Less hours, more support, less victimisation and more respect are but a few issues. Paperwork, statistics, meetings and too many subjects to timetable has taken away the pleasure of teaching. It is an impossible job. It really is no wonder children in the UK under-achieve. Leave the curriculum alone and let teachers teach. Wake up government. I have no doubt the same can be said for the NHS and other overworked and underpaid jobs. The whole system needs a good shake-up!

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