Nicky Morgan’s “Let them eat cake” moment

  • Nicky Morgan’s “Let them eat cake” moment

ATL says Nicky Morgan misses the point about teachers’ workload

If you hadn’t noticed, Nicky Morgan has taken a bit of criticism today. And while poor Marie Antoinette was unfairly accredited with that famous dessert-based quote, there can be no doubt that our Education Secretary has drawn heat for words she spoke on her own accord.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Morgan is reported as saying that one of the schools that she believes is getting the work-life balance right has done so in part by stopping emails after working hours. She also added that “Marking is a big issue and we need to get to the bottom of it so students are getting effective feedback but teachers are not spending so long marking that they can’t do the bit of the job they are doing.” This all sounds well and good, in principle; teacher workload is a huge issue, and teachers should not be expected to lose free time to professional duties. But for many, these are problems that the Conservatives have caused themselves, and that these words lack any sort of solution.

Anne Heavey, education policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) says: “Nicky Morgan has entirely missed the point about teachers’ workloads. Marking work to provide feedback to children and planning high-quality lessons are core tasks for every teacher. It is her Government which has created the perfect storm of major changes to the national curriculum, qualifications and assessment which have added considerably to teachers’ workloads. And this Government has made the situation worse with an increasingly high-stakes accountability system which has led many school leaders to believe Ofsted needs to see proof that teachers mark well, give high-quality feedback and plan excellent lessons, so make them spend hours doing so.”

The workload teachers are doing outside office hours won’t just disappear by saying that certain times are off limits. It will still need doing at some point, which means extra staff to free teachers up during the day. But with budget cuts and a recruitment crisis (fuelled in part by the high workload) it’s hard to see how this supposed solution can work.

Pie Corbett