Department for Education
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Government pledges to reduce teacher workload

The Deputy Prime Minister and Education Secretary outline plans as the results of the Workload Challenge survey are published.

A series of decisive measures designed to help tackle the root causes of unnecessary teacher workload have been announced recently (6 February 2015) by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

A key part of the government’s plan for education is ensuring teachers can focus on what they do best - teaching and raising standards - so they can prepare young people for life in modern Britain, and not be bogged down with unnecessary tasks.

As part of this plan, thousands of teachers shared their experiences, ideas and solutions on reducing unnecessary workload by taking part in theWorkload Challenge survey - the biggest Department for Education (DfE) consultation of its kind in a decade.

The survey generated more than 44,000 returns. The same themes were raised again and again by the profession as the key drivers of unnecessary and unproductive workload, including Ofsted and the pressure it places on school leaders (whether real or perceived), and from government - as well as hours spent recording data, marking and lesson-planning.

Recently, Nick Clegg and Nicky Morgan responded to these calls and underlined their pledge to work with the profession to help tackle this issue by outlining a number of commitments, including:

  • commitments by Ofsted:
    • not to change their handbook or framework during the school year, except when absolutely necessary
    • to keep updating their new myths and facts document stating what inspectors do and do not expect to see
    • from 2016 onwards, to look to make the handbook shorter and simpler, so that schools can more easily understand how inspectors will reach their judgements
  • giving schools more notice of significant changes to the curriculum, exams and accountability, and not making changes to qualifications in the academic year or during a course, unless there are urgent reasons for doing so
  • making it easier for teachers to find examples of what works in other schools, and research about the best way to do things like marking, data management and planning by bringing together a central repository of evidence
  • support for headteachers to carry out their demanding jobs by reviewing all leadership training, including reviewing the opportunities available for coaching and mentoring for leaders
  • tracking teacher workload over the coming years by carrying out a large scale, robust survey in early spring 2016, and every 2 years from then

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said recently:

Every school is only as good as the teachers that work there, and I know that some have been left feeling browbeaten and under-valued, engaged in a constant battle with bureaucracy.

These are the people that work day in, day out, doing a fantastic job in helping shape our children’s futures. Yet thousands have told us that they’re simply not able to focus on the job at hand because of the burdensome workloads they’re faced with. It’s about time we changed that.

That’s why we’ve listened and we’re making changes now to help ease that burden and allow teachers to spend more time doing the job they signed up for in the first place. This is just the start, but it’s an important first step in helping build a better education system and fairer society which puts pupils at its heart so they all have a chance to succeed.

Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan said recently:

We had an absolutely fantastic response to the Workload Challenge and I’d like to thank everyone who took time out of their busy days to contribute.

It is no secret that we have made some very important changes in schools - changes that we know have increased the pressure on many teachers. All of these changes were vital, though, and I’m pleased to say that standards are now higher and a million more children are in good or outstanding schools.

Now we want to support the profession to tackle the issue of unnecessary and unproductive workload, which I know many teachers are concerned about and that is stopping them from giving time to what really matters - inspiring young people to achieve their potential.

The ideas we have received helped to build a picture of the root causes of unnecessary workload.

We know there is no quick fix but we hope the commitments we have outlined today will support and empower the profession and free up teachers to focus on what matters most in their jobs.

Sir Andrew Carter said recently:

I’m very pleased to see the government’s response to the Workload Challenge consultation, and I am particularly pleased to see the proposals for reviewing the support for headteachers and drawing together evidence for teachers.

The actions set out here are the right ones - it is now important for everyone in education to work together to ensure an effective work-life balance is achievable for all. We know that many leaders are already managing this in schools and it is vital we continue to share effective approaches throughout the system.

Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw said recently:

I welcome the focus of this report on reducing work that does not directly contribute to raising standards for pupils.

We have worked closely with school leaders and the Department for Education to confirm the facts about what Ofsted expects to see in schools. In particular, our clarification document has been well received by teachers and is helping to dispel some of the myths that may have led to unnecessary workloads.

This week, we confirmed a number of radical changes to education inspection, which will see frequent but shorter inspections of good schools and further education and skills providers. These changes take effect in September and will place a greater emphasis on professional dialogue between headteachers and inspectors. They will help school leaders to concentrate on the things that matter the most - making sure there is good teaching, robust assessment and a positive and respectful learning culture in schools.

It is very important that schools maintain a sense of proportion when preparing for an Ofsted inspection. If they are devoting their energies to getting things right for pupils, then an Ofsted inspection will take care of itself.

The pledges outlined recently come on top of the action already taken by the government to reduce unnecessary workload for teachers and support the profession including:

  • Ofsted’s myth-buster - a simple set of statements to help schools dispel myths about inspections, which can lead to schools providing reams of additional paperwork for inspectors
  • cutting more than 21,000 pages of guidance, streamlining the inspection process and making it clear that formal written plans are not expected for every lesson
  • supporting the creation of a new, independent, professional body for teaching - a college of teaching - that will give the profession greater responsibility over things like professional standards and development, placing teaching on an equal footing with high-status professions like law and medicine
  • establishing a new fund to support more high-quality, evidence-based professional development programmes - the kind of professional development opportunities that teachers and school leaders have long argued for
  • publishing new, high-quality headteacher standards, providing them with aspirational standards of excellence that will support them to get the best out of their staff and pupils

Notes to editors

The government has published its response to the Workload Challenge Survey recently (6 February 2015).

The Workload Challenge survey was launched on 21 October 2014 and closed on 21 November 2014:

  • 20,533 respondents provided substantive answers to 1 or more of the following 3 key survey questions, generating more than 57,000 separate answers:
    • tell us about the unnecessary and unproductive tasks which take up too much of your time - where do these come from?
    • send us your solutions and strategies for tackling workload - what works well in your school?
    • what do you think should be done to tackle unnecessary workload - by government, by schools or by others?

The ministerial override set out in the government response will only be used to override the department’s own self-imposed constraints. For example, when there is clear evidence of abuse in the system. It would not be used to override a regulatory decision by Ofqual or other independent bodies.

DfE enquiries

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