Voice welcomes workload challenge reports but calls on Government to do more to reduce teacher workload

Date: 26.03.16
Voice has welcomed publication of the Workload Challenge Review Group reports by the DfE but called on the Government to do more to reduce teachers’ workload.


26 March 2016 

Voice welcomes workload challenge reports but calls on Government to do more to reduce teachers’ workload

Voice: the union for education professionals– which represents teachers, headteachers and education support staff – has welcomed publication of the Workload Challenge Review Group reports by the Department for Education (DfE) but called on the Government to do more to reduce teachers’ workload. 

General Secretary Deborah Lawson said: 

“We commend the Government for recognising that its Workload Challenge clearly demonstrated that workload in schools needed to be taken seriously, and for setting up the three working groups. 

“All three of the reports make some strong recommendations designed to improve practice in schools.  This should help to ensure that teachers’ workload doesn’t impact on learners. but instead should support effective, high quality teaching and learning and raise pupil achievement. 

“Any change initiated by ministers can increase teachers’ workload, so this must be taken into consideration and schools given the time and capacity both to take changes on board and to design and implement their own systems for dealing with them. 

“The Government must act on the major role it has to play in keeping teachers’ workloads under control. 

“Constant reform – including last week’s White Paper – leaves school staff rushing to keep up and means teachers spend increasing amounts of  work outside the classroom. It is just as important to address the root causes of excessive and unnecessary workload as it is to try and eradicate the worst symbols of the problem.“ 

In common with other unions, Voice believes that the Department for Education’s protocol, which promises a year’s lead-in time for Government’s accountability, curriculum and qualifications initiatives, needs to be properly applied so that teachers and leaders have all the information they need to plan teaching and pupil development at least a year in advance. 

We believe, too, that all policies should undergo a rigorous workload impact assessment that guarantees manageable and effective implementation so that pupils benefit, rather than being harmed. 

The working groups focused on three key issues which emerged from the Workload Challenge:

  • data management;
  • planning and resources; and
  • marking.

However, there were many other factors highlighted, not least the nature and pressure of school accountability and the detrimental effect this can have on workload. This context, particularly Ofsted inspection, demonstrates the interconnectedness of the issues considered by the working groups. 

Along with the other teacher and leader unions, Voice commits to exploringwith Government these other factors further, aiming to sustainably drive down workload within accountability systems based upon trust. This will then allow teachers and leaders to be focused firmly on their core professional role, ensure that they can lead decent working lives, and most importantly can inspire and educate their pupils.  

We look to the Government to make clear, in similar fashion, their commitment to work with us. 

The Government needs to be clear about how it will monitor workloads in school during 2016 and going forward and how it will measure and evaluate the impact of the groups’ recommendations.  

Whilst these reports highlight many of the pressing issues, it is clear to us and our colleague unions that there are concerns which we raised in the groups and which are insufficiently covered. 

The Government should take responsibility for addressing these elements by making the following further commitments:

  • Planning in school must be given sufficient time, supported as soon as possible by a refreshed DfE protocol which applies across education agencies and a full range of policy areas.
  • No school must face bigger workload issues because of its everyday circumstances – for example, small and/or rural primary schools can face significant challenges in giving teachers time for multi-subject planning where there may be no-one else with whom to collaborate.
  • The DfE must guard against any attempts to promote marking above other forms of feedback and assessment: guidance from Government and Ofsted should only be that teachers should determine the most effective form of feedback for the circumstances.
  • Alternative forms of feedback must also be properly considered to ensure that a correction to the undesirable practice of deep/dialogic marking does not result in its replacement by a time-consuming but ineffective new fad.
  • That data at all levels must have a strategy behind it and clear benefit: a data dividend.
  • There must be clarity and consistency in the data demands made in accountability by both Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners.  

Further information


Reducing teacher workload: Data Management Review Group report

Reducing teacher workload: Marking Policy Review Group  report

Reducing teacher workload: Planning and Resources Group  report

Reducing teachers’ workload Policy paper

Letters from the teacher workload review groups and Nicky Morgan

News release/summary


Voice is a member of the Marking Policy Review Group

Blog post on marking

Enforced academisation


Main findings and recommendations 



  • Effective markingi s an essential part of education and pupil-teacher dialogue, but written feedback has become disproportionately valued by schools.
  • Quantity should not be confused with quality, which is seen in how a pupil has learned and is able to tackle subsequent work.
  • The ‘you must spend hours marking to be a good teacher’ culture should be challenged so that teachers are not inflicting burdens on themselves. 

The report concludes that marking should be meaningful, manageable and motivating and recommends that:

  • Ofsted should not hold up any one system of marking as an exemplar;
  • school leaders should evaluate marking systems, including the time implications, and ensure that they do not make unreasonable demands on staff; and
  • teachers should actively review their current practice (often dictated by their school’s policies) to ensure that it matches the principles outlined above. 

Lesson planning

  • Teachers spend an undue amount of time planning lessons.
  • Some schools’ over-burdensome detailed planning requirements have arisen because of the perceived demands of government and Ofsted and how school leaders have reacted to them.
  • Collaboratively-developed schemes of work that enable teachers to teach in a way that best suits their professional judgement and experience should reduce workload rather than create it.
  • School leaders should not automatically require the same planning format across the school

Data management

  • When properly used, data can have a very positive impact on teaching and learning, but too often in schools, collection of data can become an end in itself just ‘to be ready’ in case it is needed – often referred to as ‘gold-plating’. 
  • A ruthless streamlining of how data is collected and used is called for at all levels.
  • A collect once, use many times, approach is recommended. Schools must be bold enough to stop collecting data if the burden outweighs its use.
  • Schools should conduct a data management audit and not routinely collect formative assessment data. Summative data should only be collected as frequently as is essential and not normally more than three times a year for any one pupil.


Voice Press Office
Email: pressoffice@voicetheunion.org.uk

General Secretary Deborah Lawson
Email: deborahlawson@voicetheunion.org.uk

Tel: 01332 372337