Following campaigns by the teacher unions, in 2005 the government introduced “Planning, Preparation and Assessment time” for teachers that amounted to 10% of the ‘directed time’ of 1265 hours per year.  This was half a day per week of school time.  In terms of supporting the other four and a half days of teaching per week it wasn’t much, but at least it recognised that excessive workload had become a problem.

In April 2007 the National Union of Teachers published a guidance document for its members, noting that:

Despite the introduction of Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time, lesson planning still generates excessive workload in some schools. Much of this workload has been driven by the fear that teachers will be called to account by OFSTED and must have evidence of what has been taught.

While Ofsted had rejected this accusation, and had issued advice on how to plan lessons, the NUT guidance of 2007 commented that:

Despite the advice from OFSTED about planning, there are some inspection teams which continue to expect to be provided with plans which the Union believes to be unnecessary and over-detailed. 

Several times over the next few years the instructions for Ofsted inspectors were revised and schools had to check that they were meeting the changing expectations.  These didn’t seem to reduce the paperwork pressure on teachers.


In October 2015 substantial changes appeared in a new “Framework for the Inspection of Schools”.  This is more explicit about teachers’ record keeping:

Inspectors will make a judgement on the effectiveness of teaching, learning and assessment by evaluating the extent to which: …

·  assessment information is gathered from looking at what children … already know, understand and can do and is informed by their parents as appropriate;

·  assessment information is used to plan appropriate teaching and learning strategies, including to identify children … who are falling behind in their learning or who need additional support, enabling children … to make good progress and achieve well.


It looks doubtful whether this will reduce workload.  The implications of expecting a primary teacher to “look at” what 30 children “already know, understand and can do” and ascertain for each child what his or her parents think about this, is mindblowing!  And how an inspector, in probably less than an hour of classroom observation, can “evaluate the extent” to which this has been done, asks for super-human qualities! It is unlikely that this new Ofsted Framework will quell teachers’ justifiable fears of inspection and so they are unlikely to feel able to reduce their paperwork.


This seems to be confirmed by a recent survey reported by Statista from a YouGov survey of 1020 teachers carried out between 22 June and 7 July 2015.

Teachers were asked: “How would you currently describe your morale as a teacher?”

·       “very high”                                                  4%

·       “high”                                                        24%

·       “neither low nor high”                                   32%

·       “low”                                                         25%

·       “very low”                                                  14%

A further question asked: “If you have been teaching for five years or more, how has your morale changed in the last five years?”

·       “declined”                                                 67%

·       “stayed the same”                                      24%

·       “improved”                                                 9%

They were then asked: “Do you plan on leaving the teaching profession in the next two years.”

·       “yes”                                                         53%

·       “no”                                                          47%

When those saying “yes” were asked to tick items on a list of possible reasons for “thinking of leaving”; the results were:

·     “volume of workload”                                 61%

·     “seeking better work/life balance”                57%

·     “unreasonable demands of managers”           44%

·     “retiring from profession”                           34%

·     “rapid pace of organisational change”           33%

·     “mental health concerns”                            23%

·     “student behaviour”                                   22%

·     “physical health concerns”                          15%

·     “seeking higher pay”                                  11%

·     “other”                                                     11%                                                                    

What stands out is that 61% of the teachers in this survey felt that the workload expected of them was a reason for thinking of quitting and nearly all of these people were concerned that their “work/life” balance was not right, presumably because of their work load. 



Alarm bells should be ringing at the Department for Education.

The discussion of Accountability on this website (click on the bar on the left) suggests that too much of this workload is due to an obsessive concern for accountability and lack of trust in the professionalism of teachers. 

Teachers deserve to be trusted and their work load reduced.


This blog was posted on 18 November 2015