Education & Family

Nicky Morgan pledges to cut teachers' workload

Nicky Morgan Tory conference Image copyright European Photopress Agency
Image caption Nicky Morgan was delivering her first conference speech as education secretary

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan held out an olive branch to the teaching profession in England with the promise to reduce their workload.

Speaking to the Conservative party conference, she said it would be her priority to "reduce the overall burden on teachers".

Mrs Morgan said parents did not want stressed and exhausted teachers.

The National Union of Teachers has threatened to strike over excessive workload.

Teachers have complained that they face long hours and excessive bureaucracy.

On Tuesday, the NUT published a report saying that thousands of teachers were at "breaking point" and considering quitting.

'Too stressed'

But Mrs Morgan reached out to teachers, the "heroes" of the education system, promising that she would make a priority of reducing their workload.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Wootton Park School, a new free school, will specialise in crime science

She said she sympathised with teachers "working late into the night marking books, planning lessons, preparing for inspections that may or may not come".

And she told delegates: "I don't want my child to be taught by someone too tired, too stressed and too anxious to do the job well."

She also promised to find ways for teachers to spend more of their time in the classroom teaching.

Mrs Morgan said she would work with teachers' unions and representatives to discuss problems with workload - and to "treat them as the professionals they are".

In her first conference speech as education secretary, Mrs Morgan struck a conciliatory tone, in contrast to the often strained relations between the teaching profession and her predecessor Michael Gove.

The conference gave prolonged applause to Mr Gove when his reforms were praised in Mrs Morgan's speech.

Free schools

The education secretary announced plans for the opening of a further 35 free schools which will create 22,000 more places, including 17 new schools in London.

This will include Wootton Park School in Northampton, a primary and secondary school, which will occupy a former police headquarters and will specialise in crime science.

While promising more free schools, the education secretary speech also emphasised the importance of valuing all kinds of schools in England.

Mrs Morgan signalled changes to the provision of careers' services. There have been widespread warnings about shortcomings in careers' advice, including from the education select committee and the CBI.

In particular there were concerns about careers' advice being made the responsibility of individual schools.

She said that careers' advice had been "too long overlooked in schools" and that it was a "vital part of our long-term economic plan".

Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the promise for greater trust in the teaching profession.

But he said that to give schools the flexibility they needed that "accountability measures need to be slimmer and smarter".

Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teachers' union, welcomed the recognition of how teachers' lives were "blighted by excessive workload".

But she said the education secretary needed to recognise that government policies were contributing this increase in workload.

Christine Blower, leader of the NUT, said Mrs Morgan now recognised that "an exhausted, dispirited teacher is not what children or parents want or deserve".

And she said that in the next weeks teachers would find "what action Nicky Morgan is prepared to take to bring about very significant change".

Natalie Evans, director of the New Schools Network, backed the latest expansion in free schools.

"We've seen the popularity of free schools across the country continue to grow - amongst both groups wanting to set up new schools and parents wanting to secure a place for their child," she said.

Labour's shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, said: "David Cameron's government has damaged school standards by allowing unqualified teachers into the classroom, pressing ahead with the failing free schools programme and having no plan for the forgotten 50% of young people - those young people who do not wish to pursue the traditional academic route."

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