Balancing the Workload Equation in English Primary Schools: A Continuing Story?

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 301 – 315. (November, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this paper is to report on some of the changes that have taken place in the working conditions of English primary school teachers following a national agreement governing the working conditions of teachers (DfES, 2003a).

The Reform
The Department for Education and Skills published the National Agreement in January 2003 (DfES, 2003a). This agreement anticipated a three-stage remodelling process.

In the first stage (September 2003) teachers were to be relieved of some 24 routine clerical tasks, such as chasing absences, looking after ICT equipment, and various duties associated with examining and testing, such as data processing.
In the second phase (September 2004) predicted schools tackling the 'cover problem', so that non-contact time would be protected, with a ceiling of 38 hours in any one year.
The final stage (September 2005) sought to guarantee 10% 'professional non-contact time' within school sessions for planning, preparation and assessment tasks (PPA time).

The authors examine whether this arrangement has decreased the teachers' workload.
The article is based on two sets of teacher interviews: the first set having been conducted in 2002 before the national agreement came into operation (Galton & MacBeath, 2002); and the second set taking place 4 years after its implementation in the same schools.

The main aims of these case studies were to determine:
What constituted a typical teaching day and how far had this changed as a result of the national agreement?
What were the main impediments to teaching effectively and how far had the national agreement improved the situation?

What has changed in primary teaching?

One of the main changes that has taken place since the first survey is the attempt to develop a skills-based approach to the primary curriculum as part of the new primary strategy. This allowed teachers to integrate subjects, which is in contrast to the earlier National Curriculum which favored single subject teaching.

Undoubtedly, the most significant change since the first survey has been the increase in the use of teaching assistants (TAs) to undertake various duties. The increased use of TAs was partly as a result of the greater attention given to inclusion policies and partly as a way of coping with Professional Planning and Administration (PPA) time.

However, it was found that the time given to parents and dealing with pupils' problems has increased.
Furthermore despite planning time is added to after school time, teachers' workloads have increased since 2002.

DfES [Department for Education and Skills] (2003a). Raising standards and tackling workload: A National Agreement HMSO , London.

Galton, M. and MacBeath, J. (2002). A life in teaching? The impact of change on primary teachers' working lives A report commissioned by the National Union of Teachers concerning the workloads in primary schools. University of Cambridge: Faculty of Education.

Updated: Mar. 24, 2011