This briefing contains important information for teachers and school leaders on the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) Workload Reduction Toolkit. The Toolkit provides information and advice from the Government on ways in which schools can tackle excessive and unnecessary workload burdens. The key points to note are that the Toolkit:

  • must be used in a way that is consistent with the NASUWT’s expectations on acceptable practices in schools, particularly in relation to marking, planning and assessment; and

  • is designed to be used in a way that involves all teachers and leaders in the identification and resolution of workload issues in their schools.

Background and context
Use of the Toolkit in your school
General issues
Specific issues
Advice and support from the NASUWT

Background and context

In July 2018, the DfE published a package of resources, the Workload Reduction Toolkit, designed to support schools in their efforts to reduce unnecessary and excessive workload burdens. The Toolkit was updated in October 2019.

The Toolkit is comprised of model presentations, checklists and case studies for schools to use in identifying the main causes of high workload experienced by their teachers and leaders, developing action plans to address these issues and evaluating the effectiveness of any measures taken in this respect.

The NASUWT has played the leading role in highlighting the extent of excessive teacher and school leader workload. The Union has worked to protect members from the detrimental impact of high workload and has continued to press the Government to take more effective action to reduce excessive and unnecessary workload burdens.

As a result of the NASUWT’s activity in this area, the DfE has taken steps to begin to address the workload concerns of teachers and school leaders, including:

  • working with Ofsted to incorporate explicit provisions on workload and wellbeing in the school inspection framework and handbooks;

  • commissioning the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group’s reports on marking, planning and assessment, including the 2018 report Making data work (pdf); and

  • ensuring that the DfE’s advice, guidance and policy development on issues including statutory assessment and pay and performance management, take more effective account of the right of all teachers and leaders to a reasonable work/life balance.

The Toolkit is a further outcome of the pressure that the NASUWT has brought to bear on workload issues. However, the Union remains clear that the action taken by the DfE to date continues to fall entirely short of the full range of measures required to tackle the unacceptable burdens faced by teachers and school leaders. The NASUWT will, therefore, continue to use every legitimate means at its disposal to secure more effective action by the DfE and employers.

Use of the Toolkit in your school

Notwithstanding the limitations of the DfE‘s overarching workload reduction strategy, the NASUWT is keen to examine the Toolkit’s potential to contribute to efforts to reduce those burdens that result from factors that are within the direct control or influence of schools.

However, it is important that the Toolkit is used appropriately. In particular, it is essential that the Toolkit is not used in a way that suggests that teachers and school leaders are responsible for their own excessive and unnecessary workload burdens.

Members in schools where the Toolkit is being used, or its use is being contemplated, should note the advice on its specific elements. In these schools, members should also meet to discuss the Toolkit and use this advice to identify the workload issues that use of the Toolkit provides an opportunity to raise and address. As use of the Toolkit progresses, it may be helpful to organise further stocktake meetings to evaluate the extent to which the issues highlighted by members are being included in workload reduction plans.

The NASUWT provides a wide range of professional and trade union training programmes on issues that impact on the workload of teachers and school leaders. The Union’s training gives members the skills and knowledge required to identify the causes of excessive and unnecessary workload and how this workload can best be tackled.

The NASUWT is continuing to engage with the DfE on the use of the Toolkit in schools. To inform this engagement, it is important that members working in schools where the Toolkit is being used share their experiences, positive or negative, with the Union. Comments can be sent in confidence to the Education Team.

General issues

The Toolkit focuses explicitly on addressing those aspects of schools’ practice that have a low positive impact on teaching and learning but tend to result in significant workload burdens.

It is beyond dispute that schools must identify and address any workload-intensive requirements that make little or no contribution to pupils’ progress and achievement. Nevertheless, it is essential to recognise that other practices in schools might have significant adverse implications for workload but may also be regarded as educationally worthwhile. In such cases, excessive workload may arise from, for example, the ineffective or inefficient way in which activities and processes are organised or a failure by schools to resource them properly.

Schools have a responsibility to address all causes of excessive workload; they should not limit their activities in this respect to those policies and practices that have limited or no educational value.

Schools must make sufficient time available to ensure that teachers and leaders can make effective use of the Toolkit. Each section of the Toolkit sets out indicative time allocations for each activity or task. It is important that schools do not attempt to make use of the Toolkit without reference to this guidance.

In particular, it would be wholly inappropriate for the Toolkit to be used in a way that adds to teacher and school leader workload. Schools, therefore, need to ensure that appropriately calendered meeting time, or scheduled in-service training days, are allocated for use of the Toolkit.

It is important to be clear that the materials referenced in the Toolkit demonstrate that all schools, regardless of context or circumstances, can take meaningful steps to reduce excessive and unnecessary teacher and leader workload. It is not acceptable for any school to suggest that it is not in position to act purposefully to identify and tackle unacceptable workload burdens.

It is important that the materials in the Toolkit are used faithfully by schools and that any attempts to misrepresent its contents are resisted. If members are concerned that the Toolkit is being misused and have not been able to address these concerns at school level, advice and support should be sought from the NASUWT without delay.

Specific issues

The Toolkit is designed to be used in three stages:

  • identifying workload issues;

  • addressing workload issues; and

  • evaluating the impact of workload reduction strategies.

Specific matters to note in respect of each of the sections are set out in Stage One, Stage Two and Stage Three.

Advice and support for NASUWT members

Members with concerns about the way in which the Toolkit is being used in their school can get advice and information by emailing the Member Support Advice Team.