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Teacher Work Loads

Volume 593: debated on Monday 2 March 2015

5. What recent discussions she has had with teachers associations and unions on teacher work loads. (907788)

The Secretary of State and I engaged with teachers associations and unions in the discussions about teacher work loads, most recently through the work load challenge. I welcome their contribution to the debate, including through the programme of talks at the Department for Education.

The Government’s own figures show that the average primary teacher is working 60 hours a week. Teachers in Bristol tell me that their work load is at an unsustainable level and that the accountability system in particular has reached absurd levels and demonstrates a profound lack of trust in teachers. Teachers are too often unsung heroes, under-appreciated and overworked. When is the Minister going to let them just get on and do their job?

The work load burden on teachers, which has been present for some time in this country, including under the Labour Government, is precisely the reason that we established the work load challenge. The hon. Lady will have seen the comprehensive and detailed plan that we published, which we believe will help over time to drive down the unnecessary work load of teachers.

As a former teacher, may I say that teacher work load really matters? The 10% increase that was shown up in the work load survey, which the Minister published only after being hounded for some considerable time by the Opposition, is contributing to low morale and to a looming teacher training and recruitment crisis. The response from the Government that he mentioned has been roundly rejected by teachers, thousands of whom have taken the trouble to tell Ministers of the negative impact of Government policy on teacher work loads. Do we not need a new beginning for teachers, with a Government who take seriously the impact that work load pressures are having on teacher morale and on children’s learning?

I would gently make two points. First, let us look back at some of what has been said by the teacher unions about the Government’s response. The National Association of Head Teachers said that it believes that

“the proposals for better planning and greater notice of changes are a step in the right direction. They could do a great deal to improve the quality of education”.

Secondly, I do not think the Labour party is in any position to give any lectures about Government communications with teachers. After all, the hon. Gentleman’s boss, the shadow Secretary of State, was recently contacted by one parent teacher group to ask about Labour policy and he replied with eight words:

“Stop moaning. Read the speeches. Do some work.”

That was the Labour party’s response—hardly constructive engagement.