The NASUWT is clear that lesson planning is an essential contributor to effective teaching and learning and is therefore a key element of professional practice.

The Independent Teacher Workload Review Group on eliminating unnecessary workload around planning and teaching resources included important findings around the frequency and volume of planning.

These findings make clear that detailed and weekly plans should not be a routine expectation. A copy of the Group’s report, which was accepted in full by the DfE, is available on the right/below.

Principles of good practice

Planning is most properly regarded as a means to an end (i.e. effective teaching and learning) and not as an end in itself.

Teachers are accountable for supporting pupils’ progress and achievement through their use of suitable approaches to teaching and learning, not for the particular manner in which learning activities and experiences are planned. Consequently, the principal purpose of lesson plans is to support the professional practice of teachers rather than to serve as a means by which they can be held to account for their work.

The NASUWT is opposed to the wholly unnecessary practice established in some schools in which teachers are required to submit electronic or hard copy versions of their lesson plans to members of the senior management team or colleagues acting on behalf of the senior management team.

The NASUWT’s position is supported by the findings of the DfE’s Independent Teacher Workload Review Group on eliminating unnecessary workload around planning and teaching resources. The Group’s findings were published in March 2016 and were endorsed in full by the DfE and by Ofsted.

The Group was clear that there is a key distinction between planned lessons and lesson plans:

Too often, ‘planning’ refers to the production of daily written lesson plans which function as proxy evidence for an accountability ‘paper trail’ rather than the process of effective planning for pupil progress and attainment.

The Group noted that:

…the fundamental purpose of planning is to support effective teaching in the classroom, not to satisfy external audiences. Plans cannot show what actually happened in the classroom, not the outcomes or progress made.

The Group, therefore, concluded that:

…detailed daily or weekly plans should not be a routine expectation.

While the Group’s findings were developed specifically in the context of the education system in England, the NASUWT is clear that they represent principles of effective practice in all jurisdictions.

Lesson plans and Ofsted

Attempts are made in some circumstances to justify the submission of daily or weekly lesson plans on the basis that this is an Ofsted requirement. This is emphatically not the case. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has emphasised publicly Ofsted’s view that its key interest is in assessing the extent to which lessons are planned effectively rather than on the format and content of lesson plans.

The practice of submission of lesson plans to senior leaders or managers on the basis that plans need to be checked in anticipation of a future inspection to ensure that they meet Ofsted’s expectations with regard to their layout and composition is therefore entirely unjustified. Ofsted’s school inspection handbook is clear:

Ofsted does not require schools to provide curriculum planning in any specific format…individual lesson plans [or] previous lesson plans.

Ofsted does not specify how planning (including curriculum and lesson planning) should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain.

This information from Ofsted confirms that schools adhering to the NASUWT’s position on lesson planning will not be penalised by Ofsted for doing so.

Members should be confident that adoption of these principles in their schools or in their own practice is in any way inconsistent with their commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards of practice and conduct and to ensuring that meeting the learning needs of pupils continues to represent their key professional priority.

Members should therefore make use of their own professional judgement in determining approaches to daily or weekly planning of lessons.