Taking control of teacher workload with EIS

Excessive workload was identified in last year’s EIS member survey as second only to pay as the issue of greatest concern to members. Teachers’ contracts stipulate a 35-hour week and yet EIS surveys show that teachers work on average over 46 hours a week.

As part of the pay deal which the EIS secured earlier this year, all parties agreed that measures were required to tackle excessive workload. One pathway identified was greater teacher agency, as part of the empowered schools agenda, as a means of giving practitioners more control over workload priorities.

As a first step towards achieving this, the EIS is advocating that schools audit their existing practice and collectively agree what can be done to reduce workload and bureaucracy.

Credit: EIS

The basic yardstick for all teachers is the following statement from the Deputy First Minister: “If it adds no value to the learning and teaching of your pupils, then don’t do it.”

Other frameworks to guide consideration are existing collective agreements, especially in terms of teachers’ contracts.

Schools may differ in what they see as key issues, but some commonly identified drivers of excessive workload include: 

Forward planning

In an empowered school forward planning should be driven by professional dialogue rather than auditing or preparing documents. It is neither good nor acceptable practice for weekly planners to be submitted to school management for the purpose of audit. If that is the practice in your school, it needs to be challenged.


Professional judgment should be at the heart of classroom assessment; there needs to be greater trust in teachers and less evidence hording for audit purposes. Over-recording of the assessment of pupils’ work is time-consuming and of limited value in raising standards.

SQA assessment, verification and marking

In Secondary schools, changes to SQA examination courses have driven additional workload and stress. Much of the challenge to SQA will be required to come at a national level but there are areas for schools to consider such as minimizing internal verification and identifying how other duties might be alleviated to give teachers time to adapt planning and resources.

Tracking and monitoring

Excessive recording of pupils’ progress is one of the clearest drivers of workload. This may include creating large portfolios of evidence, inputting large amounts of data in computerised (ICT) record systems or disproportionate demands about evidencing marking of pupil work.

ICT systems can require a lot of effort and time from teachers but lead to little actual impact on learning or guidance for pupils.

Where ICT increases workload, then its use should be reviewed within the empowered school.

School culture and management style

Whilst the policy of seeking and promoting a collegiate culture within Scottish schools is long established, many EIS members do not describe their own school as “collegiate”.

Where a school is not collegiate then workload is often controlled by the Headteacher or Senior Management Team and teachers often cannot target their time or have a team approach to planning or assessing work. Previous EIS surveys have revealed a positive correlation between teacher wellbeing and school collegiality.

For further information, visit www.eis.org.uk/Campaigns/Workload