Tackling Excessive Teacher Workload (Northern Ireland)

Excessive workload has a huge impact on teachers’ health, safety and wellbeing and undermines teachers’ ability to teach effectively.

Four in every five teachers say that their workload and the stress of the job have increased and half of teachers say that workload has negatively affected their physical and mental health.

Two thirds of teachers tell us that they are seriously considering leaving the profession because of concerns about excessive workload.

Our members are increasingly reporting that schools are taking the ‘opportunity’ to place more workload demands on teachers - using the pandemic to insist that teachers work harder and longer in order to assist pupils to catch up with lost learning.

The NASUWT refuses to accept that view.

We believe that the Executive and employers cannot stand by and insist that the profession simply soldier on.

Whilst the job of teaching has always been demanding, governments and administrations have a responsibility to intervene, and schools have a duty to take action to tackle excessive workload and to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of their staff.

Teachers deserve better.

The NASUWT seeks to empower members and encourage employers to demonstrate the value they place on teachers through the actions they take to address concerns about workload.

The NASUWT is also making clear to bad employers that we will step in in the interests of our members and to insist on working conditions that let teachers teach.

And we will never accept business as usual if that means that any one of our members is subject to unfair treatment, discrimination and physical and mental injury at work or has to leave the profession because of the damage inflicted on them by failure to tackle excessive workload.

  1. You are entitled to appropriate time in the working day to enable you to discharge your professional duties

Schools must provide teachers with appropriate time to discharge their professional duties, including:

  • a time budget which is compliant with the Time Budget Checklist;

  • teachers cannot be directed to carry out any duty, including marking, which they are not given time to do;

  • a principal can direct a teacher to work in school or other reasonable place;

  • an agreed directed time calendar which includes the professional activities to be discharged by teachers within 1265 hours or pro rata for teachers working part time;

  • sufficient time for teachers to carry out activities related to PRSD, induction and early professional development.

  1. You must have a reasonable break during the working day

Teachers are required to take a 30-minute break during the day and cannot be directed to perform any duties such as attend meetings during this time.

Teachers are not required to undertake midday supervision. This applies even if the statutory 30 minutes are given for a lunch break.

Lunch breaks are unpaid and do not count towards directed time. Teachers are not required to remain on school premises during the lunch break.

Teachers can enter into a separate contract to provide midday supervision but are still required to have a 30-minute lunch break.

The NASUWT recommends that this role is carried out by support staff as there will be a knock-on impact on availability of teachers to teach in the classroom if teachers are required to carry out this role.

  1. You are entitled to a limit on your working hours and to a reasonable work/life balance

Teachers are entitled to reasonable working hours which enable them to have time away from work during the evenings, at weekends and during the holidays.

Teachers should not be expected to attend any meetings outside of school session times which are not within the school’s published directed time calendar.

The NASUWT recognise that the main concern of members in relation to meetings is not necessarily meetings themselves, but the workload that arises from them. It is important that these duties are accounted for in the directed time budget.

The school’s directed time calendar must set out all the activities scheduled to take place in the academic year which require the professional contribution of teachers, including classroom teaching, meetings, parental consultation evenings and professional development days.

Teachers are not required to respond to or to send work-related emails outside directed time.

Time must be set aside in the directed time budget for all communications including email.

  1. You should not be required to undertake additional responsibilities without additional pay

Teachers cannot be expected to undertake additional responsibilities which are not required of all classroom teachers without a Teaching Allowance.

Classroom teachers paid on the Upper Pay Scale are paid additionally for their experience and contribution to teaching and learning.

They cannot be required to undertake duties or responsibilities beyond those expected for the generality of classroom teachers.

  1. You should not be required to undertake unreasonable or excessive planning, marking or assessment

The Jordanstown Agreement recognises that teachers may spend additional time preparing lessons and marking pupil work.

Any additional time spent on these activities outside of directed time is based solely on the professional judgement of the teacher in terms of amount and type.

If a principal directs any marking or planning activity, either in school or elsewhere, this must be included in the 1,265 hours and 195 days of a teachers’ time budget.

Teachers should not be required to submit lesson plans or marking to members of the senior leadership team or anyone acting on behalf of the senior leadership team.

All activities related to awarding should be workload impact assessed in consultation with the NASUWT.

  1. You should not be expected to carry out administrative and clerical tasks that are not included on your individual time budget

Administrative and clerical tasks are not part of PPA time nor are they a good use of teachers’ time.

Teachers should not carry out any admin task that is not accounted for in their time budget.

  1. You should not be required to teach, set or mark the work of pupils who are absent

Whilst teachers went the extra mile during the pandemic to provide curriculum access to pupils whilst schools were closed to the generality of pupils, there should be no expectation placed on teachers to continue to do so.

Schools must put in place additional staff to respond to Covid absence and to enable classroom teachers to focus their time on the majority of pupils who are in class.

TNC 2015/1 Protocol for Home-school E-Learning (pdf) clarifies the contractual position in schools.

Teachers cannot be compelled to provide online learning for absent pupils.

  1. You should not be required to cover for absent colleagues

Cover is not an effective use of the time of a teacher at a school.

Teachers cannot be asked to cover at all, or supervise, when it was known and agreed in advance that an absence would exceed two days, other than covering for primary 1, 2 or nursery colleagues.

Teachers in schools of fewer than 222 pupils, nursery (in primary school), primary 1 and primary 2 teachers are not required to provide cover.

The weekly limits of 23.5 hours in a post-primary school and 25 hours in a primary or special school include any time a teacher is involved in class cover.

Cover must be accounted for in the time budget.

  1. You must not be subject to bullying or other adverse management practices

PRSD is the only agreed mechanism for the internal formal evaluation of teacher performance. All activities related to PRSD time must be accommodated within directed time. It should not be used as a stick with which to beat teachers.

Where lesson observations are required by statutory processes, such as those for induction or early professional development of new teachers, they should be underpinned by a competent risk assessment.

Classroom observation for the generality of teachers should be limited to no more than two observations per year total no more than one hour.

Learning walks should not take place without the agreement of the NASUWT and the focus cannot be the performance of the teacher.

  1. You should not be required to participate in work solely for the purpose of preparing for an inspection

Instructing teachers to carry out work solely in preparation for inspection visits is of no educational value and is not required by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

The NASUWT expects that these activities should be discontinued.

  1. You cannot be compelled to take part in a residential trip

Principals cannot direct teachers to take pupils on educational visits involving overnight stays.

Teachers should not agree to take part in a residential trip if sufficient time is not allocated on the directed time budget to the trip.

When teachers are absent for more than two working days on a residential trip, their colleagues are not obliged to provide cover for them for any of the time that they are away, as it is an absence of more than two working days.

  1. You cannot be compelled to take part in an after-school activity of club which is not accounted for in directed time

Teachers can volunteer to take extracurricular activities. However, if a principal directs a teacher to take an after-school activity, it must be accounted for within directed time and where the activity involves the teacher acting beyond a supervisory capacity, it must be accounted for within the weekly teaching limit.

Together - let’s do something about excessive workload

As a member of the NASUWT, you are not alone in dealing with the problem.

Excessive workload not only affects the wellbeing of individuals, it is also the most cited factor impacting adversely on teacher recruitment and retention.

There is no justification for schools seeking to place increasing demands on teachers. The work of teachers cannot exceed the time that teachers are paid to do the job.

Working together, members are encouraged to take action to insist on working practices that are manageable and to have the time to do the job.

In many individual settings, NASUWT members are benefiting by working together with their school/college to tackle the problem of excessive workload.

It is important that members’ concerns are taken seriously and addressed by:

  • arranging to meet with other members in the school to talk about the issue in their school/college;

  • raising the issue with your NASUWT School/College Representative or meeting with your NASUWT Local Association;

  • meeting with the headteacher or principal to discuss the problem and to agree solutions;

  • with the help of your NASUWT National Executive Member, agreeing on appropriate action that can be taken to protect members at your school, including collective action to insist that your school/college takes effective action to stop excessive workload and unacceptable working practices.

Support and advice are available from the NASUWT for members. You can seek support and advice from the NASUWT directly if you are concerned that your school/college is not taking appropriate action to support and protect you and other members.

The NASUWT will continue to press all governments and administrations to take action to ensure safe working conditions for all members.

 

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