Additional In-Service Days -Teacher Workload Still Increasing

As part of the three-year pay deal the teacher unions together with the Government and COSLA (employers) made a commitment to reducing teacher workload. Two additional in-service days were allocated within the 2019-2020 school session to help schools to identify and reduce teacher workload.

The SSTA conducted a survey of school representatives in December 2019 to gauge the impact of the additional in-service days in reducing teacher workload. Despite the commitment from the Government and COSLA, SSTA representatives reported that teacher workload was not reducing and in many cases teacher workload was still increasing.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary, said

“It appears that only the teacher unions are actively encouraging schools to identify causes of teacher workload and take steps to reduce bureaucracy, whilst other partners to the agreement (COSLA and the Government) have been not looking at themselves as to causes of teacher workload or supporting schools to cut teacher workload”.

“Schools in many areas lacked guidance or instruction on how to tackle teacher workload from their local authority. Schools in many areas had been left to their own devices with headteachers reluctant to make changes to working practices due to fear of inspection and fault finding by the local authority”.

The SSTA survey of school reps found that only 41% of school reps were involved in the planning of the days with only 27% of school looking at the causes of teacher workload.

The survey found that 84% of schools had used one of the days in the first term with only 20% of schools used them to tackle workload. A further 48% of schools only used part of the in-service days as intended.

Of the 27% of school that looked at causes of work load but only 19% identified measures to reduce workload with only just over half of these agreed to implement measures to reduce teacher workload.

Seamus Searson added

“Teachers need to focus on teaching and learning and not collecting data and evidence to satisfy Inspectors, local authorities and government officials. The fear of inspection and scrutiny from outside is widespread in schools. This just takes the power away from teachers to put their pupils first and undermines the government’s intention to put power in to the hands of teachers”.

John Guidi, SSTA President, said

“Many teachers are calling for time for curriculum development. The SSTA view is that three of the in-service days, one per term should be given over to teaching and learning (curriculum development). Teachers need time to plan”.

“Many of these days at are predominantly filled with new initiatives or information giving sessions that take time away from the real business of teaching and learning”.

SSTA members identified a number of areas that are causing concern.

New initiatives or procedures that are introduced to meet external policy demands, a target or a tick box in the event of an inspection or a local authority review. Many of these new initiatives are not piloted or evaluated before implementation but take a good deal of teacher time.

New and increased pupil ‘tracking and monitoring’ systems that do not give any new information about pupils. The teachers already know how there pupils are doing. Tracking and monitoring is unnecessary for most pupils as teacher have already intervened when there is a concern about a pupil and give support and guidance and how pupils can improve in every lesson they teach.

Need for a national system on tracking and monitoring and an agreed limit on the usefulness of these systems that prevent schools developing new and more complex processes that only add to teacher workload.

The survey identified some of the measures schools took to reduce teacher workload

  • 19% reduced tracking and monitoring
  • 36% removal of written comments within tracking and monitoring
  • 29% reduction of written reports
  • 14% allocated time for moderation/standardisation
  • 10% gave time to make SQA course changes
  • 14% simplified pupil referral systems
  • 10% halt on new initiatives and demands placed on staff
  • 17% increase of allocated curriculum development time
  • 19% reduced staff meetings

Comments from members:

“The empowerment agenda set out by SLT ironically made staff feel less empowered”

“Staff were angered that other schools gave staff time to get on with their work whilst ours made them talk about their work issues for a day”.

“There's a lot of ill feeling about workload that hasn't been resolved by these additional in-service days there has been no real move to reduce workload in the school”.

“If anything workload has increased with new T+M systems that duplicate existing systems”.

“No points of action came out of the first day”.

“There has been no discussion with staff in regard to reducing teacher workload”.

“Workload pressures are increasing and a distinct lack of support from management is causing staff to feel overwhelmed and undervalued”.

“Not fully realised and the authority left this to individual schools”.

“The comments I hear again and again from my members is that to really reduce workload the SQA needs to stop constantly moving the goal posts so we can consolidate our assessment, courses and marking and also that the local authority need to step up more to support schools”.

“Workload has continued to increase. Continual changes from the SQA, multiple new initiatives & preparing for an inspection, reporting - although all electronic is now more onerous; all have added to workload”.

“We are struggling to identify effective measures to reduce workload, as it would mean stripping away broad 'systems of management' which SLT are reluctant to do”.

“Onslaught of new initiatives introduced throughout the year, not in the WTA, which adds to teacher stress and workload”.

“Very disappointed that an SNCT national agreement and LNCT agreement to look at reducing workload can be ignored at school level. If this is a taste of HT empowerment then I fear for the future”.

“Burnout. Colleagues who love the job are ready to ‘walk away’. SLTs need to stand up for their staff and call out the LAs for not being proactive in tackling workload”.

“If the idea was to reduce workload then let teachers decide how best to use two days to get things done.  We have to develop courses, write reports etc.  Our council decided when our days were and so we used them for development work”.

“The Headteacher dictated what was to happen. No collegiate working”.


Please note:

Survey took place in December 2019 with 72 SSTA School Representatives responding.

Further information from

Seamus Searson
General Secretary

0131 313 7300

3 March 2020