Both the government and the regulator are guilty of causing excessive workload. In a culture of high-stakes accountability and imposition of policy, it’s not surprising that teachers get fed up and move on. Graduates look at the lack of agency and home/work balance and choose other professions.
The recruitment and retention report published by the Education Select Committee earlier this year pulled no punches. It was clear about the damaging effect of concurrent excessive and ill-thought-through curriculum and assessment changes by the DfE, as well as the negative impact of a high-stakes accountability system.
In what was an otherwise eminently sensible report, I would suggest that a national entitlement for CPD that is checked by Ofsted is not the way to go. This would be a centrally driven policy imposed on schools, with Ofsted sent in to make sure it’s happening – ie more of the same.
Sometimes you’ve got to tip things on their head and get radical. The government should not only give at least a year’s lead-in for new initiatives, but there should be no new ones until we’ve worked through the massive changes to the curriculum and assessment system.
It’s time to pare back both Ofsted and the DfE. Too much time and money is being spent on things which have too little impact on pupils’ life chances. Inspecting good schools, performance-related pay, academisation – none of these help retain good teachers or attract more into the profession.
Addressing the causes behind lack of retention and recruitment would lead to a reduction in workload, freeing up time for productive professional development.
Teachers in receipt of this would also stay around to utilise it in the classroom. Within my trust we recently consulted on reducing contact time for all teachers by about an hour a week, in return for an enhanced commitment to their own personal professional development.
That’s about six days per year. This professional development could comprise lesson study among colleagues, formative lesson observations or external accredited courses.
While everything is up for discussion, I’ve built three non-negotiables into the system. Firstly, there must be verifiable evidence produced of the professional development undertaken. Nothing onerous, but a sharing of professional learning is a must. Secondly, the increased CPD time needs to correlate positively with improved outcomes for pupils (causation may be more difficult to show, but I’ll accept correlation for now).
Finally, the reduction in teaching time has to be affordable within our budget. I don’t need a national entitlement for CPD driven by government. I need a profound cultural change in the way we do things.
Stephen Tierney is the CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic MAT and chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable