Is Teacher Paperwork Increasing?

Going into teaching can be a daunting career choice. The idea of standing alone in front of a 20-something strong group of people hormonally inclined to dislike you and having to teach them about osmosis is enough to make anyone think twice. But as if this wasn’t deterrent enough to those looking to get into teaching, ever increasing oversight from Ofsted and the DfE and the accompanying paperwork, have bloated a teacher’s weekly workload to 59 hours for primary school teachers and to 55 for secondary school teachers.[1] But is it all doom and gloom- is the workload increasing? And is the amount of paperwork a bad thing?

Is paperwork actually increasing then?

Yes and no. Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, launched the Workload Challenge- a scheme created back in October 2014 to reduce the “unnecessary and unsustainable workload” of British teachers.[2] As part of the scheme, she asked teachers for responses to a survey of three questions:

  • What are the unnecessary and unproductive tasks which take up your time?
  • What solutions and strategies for reducing workload work well in your school? and
  • What do you think should be done by government, school or others in response to the problem?[3]

44,000 teachers responded. 56% of the respondents had said that ‘inputting, monitoring and analysing data’ contributed to the unnecessary and unproductive workload they were under- a higher proportion than for any of the other options, which included lesson planning, setting targets and implementing new initiatives. 63% of respondents stated that an ‘excessive level of detail’ was a key problem, 45% thought that duplication added too much to their workload and 41% complained of their work was overly bureaucratic.[4]

In another government survey related to teacher workload, 44.6% of classroom teachers and deputy heads thought that their time spent on ‘unnecessary or bureaucratic’ tasks had increased, 41.7% thought that it had stayed the same, and only 4.8% believed that it had reduced.[5] In response to the Workload Challenge, ‘accountability or the perceived pressures of Ofsted’ was given as the most common answer to what teachers believed to be the main driving force behind unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork.[6]

So it does seem as though the paperwork load is increasing.

Is the system working?

Accountability isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes things go wrong, or somebody makes a mistake, and needs to be made responsible for their actions. For that, it’s useful. It’s also useful for quantifying and comparing one school to another- whether this helps or hinders schools is up for debate.

But when 50% of teachers in England are making plans to quit in the next two years, it’s surely time to listen to the reasons why.[7] Excessive paperwork intimidates and overwhelms PGCE students and seasoned veterans alike, and accountability to Ofsted isn’t important enough a reason for exacerbating an already dire teacher shortage. It is high time that the mounds of paperwork reach their high tide.

Have you noticed a difference in the quantity of paperwork? Leave your comments below.