Northern Ireland news

Unions warn teacher workload needs to be prioritised

There are calls for increasing teacher workload and low levels of well-being and morale to be addressed

MOUNTING teacher workload and staff wellbeing needs to be prioritised, a group of teaching unions said last night.

It comes amid concerns that the "long and stressful working hours associated with teaching are causing a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession".

Following the first in-person meeting of presidents and general secretaries from 10 education unions within the British and Irish Group of Teacher Unions (BIGTU), they have called on policy-makers to address issues such as increasing workload on teachers and lecturers.

It also highlighted mounting concerns amongst education unions and the wider education community about the impact on work-life balance and well-being of staff.

The group said staff have to spend "an inordinate amount of time on burdensome non-teaching tasks" such as tracking, audits and form filling, which have "little direct effect upon the quality of learning and teaching yet negatively impact upon the quality of working life".

It suggests two areas where reducing teachers’ workload would help reduce stress - excessive summative assessment and unhelpful external audit and inspection processes.

The unions said policy makers should ensure that examination, curriculum and inspection reforms are designed to "decrease workload as all of these factors have the capacity to create additional work for teachers".

It is also calling "on the Departments of Education on these islands to redouble their efforts to reduce teacher stress by reducing the amount of paperwork teachers and lecturers are required to handle" and said it believes such an initiative "would have a positive impact on student learning".

BIGTU chairperson Larry Flanagan said: "Teachers’ and lecturers’ time is finite.

"If we want the very best for our students, we need to allow teachers to focus on activities that have the greatest effect on student learning and wellbeing.

"By reducing workload in areas with little evidence of impact, we can realign teachers’ working lives with their moral purpose and improve both teacher wellbeing and the student experience."

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