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Teacher Workload

Volume 612: debated on Monday 4 July 2016

First, I add my welcome to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner). I look forward to engaging with her on our mutual interests: education and, I understand, women and equalities. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for her work as shadow Education Secretary. I think it is fair to say that we did not agree on everything, or perhaps even much, but I do pay tribute to her hard work, and that of the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who I have also worked with over the years.

We are continuing our extensive work to remove unnecessary workload for teachers. As part of my commitment to taking action in this area, we established three independent review groups to tackle workload relating to marking, lesson planning, and data management. We have accepted all their recommendations to Government. We urge school leaders and others in the education system also to act on those recommendations, and we will continue to work on this.

Has my right hon. Friend considered lengthening the school day to allow teachers the space to plan and mark during the school day, rather than during evenings and weekends? That would also give pupils the opportunity to engage in subjects such as art, music, drama and sport that may not be part of their curriculum at the moment.

My hon. Friend will remember that in the Budget the Chancellor mentioned support for a longer school day. Many schools already offer extra activities as part of a longer school day. We are keen to support this, and hope that they will broaden their range of activities. However, if we have a longer school day, there is no requirement for teachers to increase their workload to accommodate that. We will come forward with more details in due course.

Having spoken to many teachers in Taunton Deane, it is clear to me that a significant number feel under continual pressure to adapt to a constantly changing system, and there are worries that more changes are on the horizon. Will the Secretary of State give assurances that following the White Paper, teachers will begin to see greater consistency? Will she meet me, and perhaps some local teachers, to discuss these issues?

Of course I will be very happy to meet my hon. Friend and any teachers or headteachers she might like to invite from her constituency. Our aim is to give schools and colleges as much stability as possible to deliver the ambitious reforms set out in the White Paper. We want to give teachers and leaders the confidence to make changes based on their own professional judgment. We have a workload protocol that gives schools the time to prepare for significant changes, and we are making sure that it takes fully into account the implications for workload.

I have raised on the Floor of the House on a number of occasions the problems in west Cumbria with teacher recruitment and retention, which are leading to workloads building up, to the detriment of our children’s education. I am concerned to see that figures provided by the National Union of Teachers project that Cumbria will see a 4.5% real-terms cut in funding under the Government’s new national funding formula. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that, and to ensure that there is no detriment to children in my constituency?

We are aware of issues relating to recruitment in certain parts of the country and in certain schools. I am pleased to say, as the Minister for Schools has said, that we have recruited more teachers to teacher training for the start of next year. The hon. Lady is right to say, however, that among the reasons that teachers often struggle to stay in the profession are workload, behaviour and other expectations. We will have more to say about the national funding formula. I ask the hon. Lady to wait for the consultation and to make sure that she takes part in it, but I think she will agree that it must be right that pupils with the same needs attract the same amount of money, regardless of where they are based.

If the Secretary of State really does want to help teachers with the workload pressures that they are under, she has to do much more to tackle the serious shortage of teacher colleagues in schools and the duplicative paperwork that teachers are coping with, and not rely so much on the Minister for Schools, who sees the wonders of the free market as the solution.

The Minister for Schools does a fantastic job, and it is a delight to have his sunny outlook in all of our ministerial meetings. There are schools across the country that manage workload issues. When I visit schools, I always ask about workload, and it is interesting that there are some schools—they are very similar—where teachers are supported in terms of workload, and others where there clearly are issues. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to make sure that when he next visits schools in his constituency, he takes with him, or looks at, the workload report, and asks teachers and heads in the staffroom how they are getting on with implementing the recommendations. I accept that there are recommendations for Government, Ofsted and school leaders; between us all, I am sure that we can make progress.