Damian Hinds vows to ease work pressures on teachers
Be it in the media, among friends and family in the teaching profession, or during Digital Media Edge’s personal conversations with schools, the stress put on the shoulders of teachers is always a talking point. Whereas teaching has never been considered an “easy” job by any stretch of the imagination, in recent years the increased workload has become almost unbearable with an incredible 10-11% of qualified teachers leaving the profession every year.
New education secretary Damian Hinds has been in post for six months now and appears to be speaking on behalf of all teaching staff when he says something has to change, sending waves through parliament with a shake up to the status quo.
It’s a complex issue
In a recent article in The Guardian (21st July), Hinds expressed his concerns after becoming aware of the scope of the workload pressures in local schools. Increases in the likes of email correspondence with parents (which naturally expect near instant replies in today’s ever connected world), data entry and “deeper” marking alongside the daily classroom grid are simply leaving teachers overwhelmed. Indeed the number one complaint among staff is the pressures of their current workload and the unfeasibly long hours they are having to work in order to satisfy it.
Hinds has stated that staff retention is top of his agenda, vowing to relieve as much stress as he can to avoid more teachers being forced out. And he has so far appeared to be a man of his word, issuing a new “toolkit” which promises to tell staff which time-consuming tasks and policies they can focus less on.
It will not be a simple process though:
“I think politicians would love to believe – and some people out there do believe – that this is a simple matter of bureaucracy, and there are some forms that schools are being made to fill out by us or by Ofsted, or whoever […] But it’s just not that simple. If we could just find those forms or the pieces of bureaucracy to remove, then the people before me would have done it. It’s a much more complex issue than that.”
A further pledge outlined offers an end to reforms and constant changes from with his own Department of Education, promising a period of adjustment for any updates to be fully integrated into schools before the next is issued.
“I can’t promise [there will be] no change but I can say we need a period now of less change and making sure that there is a good period of time to adjust before something new comes in.”
Education is a special case too
Perhaps the most pivotal of the shake ups though comes as Hinds insists that education should be firmly on par with the NHS in its position for extra government spending from the Treasury.
“Education is a “special case” too [just like the NHS]. We’re responsible for helping parents, supporting them in the bringing up of the next generation […] We’re responsible for helping to drive productivity, which drives economic growth. We need people to fill the jobs of the future, and some of those we can’t predict yet what they are, but we are also in the business of helping kids grow up into happy and fulfilled adults. So education is absolutely a special case.”
Despite arguably being a very positive step forward, this has also been shadowed with frustrations from those on the front line as planned announcements on teacher pay rises have been delayed during such negotiations.
Let us know your thoughts
Only time will tell if positive changes will be seen in classrooms across the country as a result of these implementations and suggestions, but an acknowledgement of the issues facing teachers every day is at last a move in the right direction.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, do you believe Damian Hinds could be the voice of change or do you think he should be focusing his attention on any other areas? Let us know in the comments below.