Tackling Excessive Teacher Workload (Scotland)

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.

The NASUWT refuses to accept this view.

We believe that governments 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.

This NASUWT Workload Checklist 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, to insist on working conditions that let teachers teach.

Employers should be aware that they and their schools are expected to follow the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) Code of Practice on Collegiality.

Furthermore, the key recommendations of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Working Group on Tackling Bureaucracy (2015) remain relevant today for too many teachers: ‘This report highlights specific areas where changes need to be made to tackle unnecessary bureaucracy. These are forward planning; assessment; self-evaluation and improvement processes; and monitoring and reporting.’

Continued inaction by employers on these matters is not acceptable.

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 a failure to tackle excessive workload.

NASUWT Workload Checklist

  1. You cannot be expected to work effectively if your workload is excessive and unmanageable

Employers have a legal duty under health and safety legislation to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of staff.

Excessive workload impacts adversely on the physical and mental health of teachers and where a school/college fails to take appropriate steps to tackle excessive workload pressures, it may be held liable.

Schools should carry out workload impact assessments of their policies and practices in consultation with staff and trade unions.

Schools are also required under Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 to risk assess all hazards. This includes excessive workload. A general workload/stress risk assessment must also be in place in all schools.

Policies and practices that contribute towards excessive and unnecessary workload, including those related to marking, planning, assessment and the use of data should be reviewed, risk assessed (in consultation with staff and trade unions) and amended as necessary.

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

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

  • an allowance of no less than one third of the teacher’s actual class contact commitment for preparation and correction;

  • a negotiated Working Time Agreement which includes  professional activities to be discharged by teachers, such as parent/carer meetings, staff meetings and additional preparation/correction.

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

Teachers are entitled to a reasonable break during the day and cannot be directed to perform any duties, such as attend meetings or supervise pupils during this time.

  1. You are entitled to a limit on your working hours (your working week should be a maximum of 35 hours FTE) 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 agreed Working Time Agreement.

The school’s Working Time Agreement must set out all the key activities scheduled to take place in the academic year which require the professional contribution of teachers, including, staff meetings, parent/carer consultations, report writing and formal assessment schedules.

School improvement plans should ‘involve a manageable number of priorities’ (CfE Working Group on Tackling Bureaucracy, 2015) and be negotiated alongside Working Time Agreements.

Teachers should not be required to respond to or send work-related emails outside normal working hours.

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

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

Teachers should not be required to provide extensive written comments on every piece of work, given that there is very little evidence that this practice improves pupils’ outcomes in the long run.

Teachers should not be required to submit their formative assessment to routine internal scrutiny and should not be required to submit summative assessment data more than three times per year per pupil.

Teachers should not be expected to undertake additional contingency activities relating to pupil/student qualifications and awards beyond those set out by relevant regulatory bodies.

Teachers should not undertake work which is ordinarily undertaken by employees of awarding/regulatory bodies.

  1. You should not be expected to undertake routine administrative and clerical tasks, including:
  • keeping and filing records, including records based on data supplied by teachers;

  • transferring manual data about pupils into computerised school management systems;

  • producing analyses of attendance figures or examination results;

  • managing the data in school management systems;

  • supervision of pupils within the school grounds, in dining and/or recreation areas during school hours outside of scheduled teacher class contact time;

  • administration of the school meals service, including collection of money and issue of tickets;

  • collection/collation of data for the school meals service;

  • documenting and maintaining pupil disciplinary records;

  • administrative elements of pupil welfare requirements, including support of guidance staff with routine documentation and information dispersal;

  • reception and telephonist duties;

  • first aid and administration of drugs;

  • administration and documentation relating to out-of-school visits/work experience/visiting groups, etc;

  • copy typing/filing/photocopying;

  • administrative detail of register/absence procedures/issue of standard letters;

  • non-professional aspects of school reporting procedures, preparation of envelopes, transfer of information, photocopying, filing, etc;

  • inputting of assessment data;

  • transmission of recorded data to external bodies;

  • organising and obtaining supply cover;

  • administrative aspects of resourcing, stocktaking, ordering, checking and invoice reconciliation;

  • property management;

  • repair and maintenance of IT and AV resources;

  • recording of educational broadcasts;

  • administration of after-school-care.

  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 without additional time being allocated.

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

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

Excessive lesson observations, unannounced management drop-ins and unreasonable levels of assessment data tracking contribute to a hostile environment for classroom teachers - creating anxiety, stress and fear.

Where lesson observations are required, such as those for induction/probation, they should be underpinned by a competent risk assessment.

Numerical and pupil data targets must not be used to assess a teacher’s performance.

  1. You should not be required to participate in mock inspection activities

Local authority pre-inspection activities, including unnecessary work on How Good Is Our School? 4, excessive pupil tracking and departmental/subject reviews are all examples of unacceptable management practices which are  not a requirement of the inspection framework.

The NASUWT expects that these activities should be discontinued.

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, but 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 enough 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. 

The Valued Worker Scheme, endorsed by the NASUWT and other unions, aims to promote good employment practice in schools and colleges and recognises those employers that are taking effective action to tackle excessive workload and to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of teachers.


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