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Ofsted blames school leaders for teacher workload

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

Following the announcement that Ofsted is to begin asking staff at schools who are being inspected to evaluate their own leadership team in terms of workload, several questions might be asked.

For example: Is Ofsted essentially blaming school leaders for workload? What do Ofsted inspectors actually know about the workload issue? Of course, there are bound to be many within the profession who think it’s a bit rich for Ofsted to be trying to evaluate workload issues in school at all.

Many would argue that a considerable amount of that workload actually stems from the inspectorate itself – or the threat of impending inspection.

Furthermore, changes to the inspection framework inevitably lead to increased workload in schools as leaders aim to get themselves ‘inspection-ready’ And, whilst nobody likes the notion of passing the blame or the buck, in any walk of life, but do they actually have a point? Are school leaders to blame? And, isn’t it right and proper that staff be asked to evaluate their leaders on such a massive issue as teacher workload? The answer to both questions is probably ‘yes’. Teacher workload: Who is really to blame? The fact that there is a serious workload issue within the teaching profession is undeniable.

But trying to apportion blame is probably not the best way to tackle the problem.

There is a risk that adding questions to the Ofsted teacher survey is seen as pointing the finger at school leaders. If truth be told, there are a number of factors that affect and impact on workload.

Looking at things objectively, school leaders should probably bear the same amount of responsibility for increasing workload as Ofsted. It simply isn’t good enough for school leaders to explain workload away because Ofsted has ‘moved the goalposts’ or because a school is facing an impending inspection visit. But, on the flipside, is it any wonder that school leaders ramp up the workload expectations on their staff when the stakes are so high? Similarly, the Department for Education is hardly blameless when it comes to impact on teacher workload either. Workload must be taken into account Ultimately though, the positive aspect of the new Ofsted teacher survey having a focus on workload is that it is recognition that the profession, at all levels, needs to take the issue into account. Therefore, it seems wholly appropriate to ask teachers the extent to which they agree with the statement, “Leaders and managers take workload into account when developing and implementing policies and procedures, so as to avoid placing unnecessary burdens on staff.” However, there also needs to be an acceptance that it’s often not just new policies and procedures that add to the workload, it’s also the combination of all the existing ones that the school is working with. But, naturally, new policies and procedures are going to be introduced into schools – because of the changes Ofsted makes to its inspection framework. The whole thing just illustrates how teacher workload is a tricky and very complex issue.


1- Workload concerns of our British teachers

2- How to avoid teacher burnout

3- How can we improve Ofsted's role in school improvement?

4- The Ofsted inspection framework - What's changing?