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Damian Hinds pledges to reduce teachers' long working hours to tackle staff shortages

'The Government needs to recognise funding cuts that are driving up workload and the growing uncompetitiveness of teacher pay', teacher union says

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Saturday 10 March 2018 01:33 GMT
Damian Hinds will make the pledge on workloads to headteachers
Damian Hinds will make the pledge on workloads to headteachers (AFP)

Education Secretary Damian Hinds will pledge to reduce teachers’ long working hours in a bid to tackle staff shortages – but unions say action on funding cuts and low teacher pay is needed to solve the crisis.

In his first major speech, Mr Hinds will tell headteachers that the Government will “strip away” pointless tasks, including excessive lesson plans and unnecessary marking, which do not help children learn.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) conference in Birmingham, Mr Hinds will admit that rising pupil numbers is making recruiting and retaining teachers “difficult” for schools.

The Education Secretary, who was appointed in January, will also acknowledge that the heavy workload of teachers and school leaders is “one of the biggest threats” to retention and recruitment.

“Too many of our teachers and our school leaders are working too long hours, and on non-teaching tasks that are not helping children to learn”, Mr Hinds will say.

The minister is expected to announce a strategy to encourage the recruitment and retention of teachers amid continuing concerns about teacher shortages, particularly in subjects like maths and physics.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed the recognition of the “teacher shortage crisis” but he called on the Government to look at low pay and funding cuts.

Mr Courtney said: “The Government needs more than ambition if these efforts are to work.

“The Government needs to recognise that funding cuts are also now driving up workload – with class sizes increasing in two-thirds of secondary schools and teachers facing cut backs in preparation time.”

He added: “And the Government needs to recognise that it must deal with the growing uncompetitiveness of teacher pay.”

Mr Hinds is expected to reiterate today that the Government will not announce any new tests or exams, or changes to the national curriculum, beyond those already announced, before 2022.

He will also admit that the current system for holding schools to account can “feel very high stakes for school leaders” and he will add that headteachers should have clarity about how the system works.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, will tell the conference that the schools’ watchdog will also look at how it can help to reduce teacher workload.

She will say: “It really doesn’t matter what an inspectorate thinks if we can’t attract good people into teaching.

“The record number of good and outstanding schools won’t be sustained if the people, who make them run so well, are burning out and leaving the profession.

“When I see newly qualified teachers brimming with passion to change young lives for the better, I think it an utter travesty that so many end up losing their early enthusiasm, because of the pressures of the job. Especially when so many of those pressures are entirely unnecessary.

“Because that’s what endless data cuts, triple marking, 10 page lesson plans, and, worst of all, Mocksteds are - a distraction from the core purpose of education.

“We must do all we can to support removing unnecessary workload for teachers and school leaders ... and direct the focus back to what matters.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, will say in his speech to conference today that teacher workload “is one of the key issues or our time in education”, adding, “only co-ordinated action by school leaders, Ofsted and the Government will solve this problem”.

On the Government’s renewed pledge on workload, Mike Kane MP, Labour’s shadow schools minister, said: “The Tories have been promising to solve the workload crisis for years, but the facts are that they have missed their own recruitment targets five years in a row, and teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers.

“This Government can’t offer a solution to the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention because they created it. If the Government were serious about ending the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention they would match Labour’s fully-funded commitment to scrap the public sector pay cap and give our teachers the pay rise they deserve.”

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