As you will know the EIS has been building a major Campaign on Workload, since the start of this session aimed at securing a real-term reduction in the workload burden of all members; this will require agreement at political level along with a detailed mechanism for implementation.

We have decided to write to you at this time, on a personal basis, to bring you up to date with important developments in the Campaign, to assure you that your own workload concerns are pertinent to the campaign, and to both enlist your support and offer assistance in the next phase.

Firstly, we are conscious that as Headteachers and Deputes, your own workload burdens are significant, particularly at this stage in the ongoing introduction of Curriculum for Excellence along with the attendant planning and assessment burdens.

We are aware of the very real pressures facing our Headteacher and Depute Headteacher members who often have to act as a buffer/intermediary between the Education Authority and the staff within a school.

There can be little doubt that these pressures look set to become even more acute in the immediate future period ahead. Our aim is to ensure that the intended reduction in excessive workload applies as equally to senior management team members as to other colleagues.

The immediate focus of the campaign is the report of the "Curriculum for Excellence Working Group on Tackling Bureaucracy”, which was published at the end of last year.

You should have a copy of this report from Education Scotland; in case you have not yet received such, it can be viewed on this link. The setting up of the Working Group was announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning at the EIS AGM in June 2013.

There are a number of specific recommendations from the Working Group Report which potentially will ease workload concerns:

  • ensuring that planning, monitoring and reporting systems are fit-for-purpose and used in a way that maximises the time spent on teaching and learning, supports professional dialogue and avoids unnecessary workload;
  • ensuring that reporting formats reflect CfE in that they revolve around narrative reporting rather than "tick box” approaches and that their approach is essentially holistic;
  • ensuring time for professional dialogue and support the development of staff confidence and professional trust in teachers;
  • reviewing forward planning procedures to ensure that they are proportionate and support professional dialogue;
  • avoiding excessive planning based upon assessing, recording and reporting at the level of individual Experiences and Outcomes;
  • challenging unnecessary bureaucracy in education services and schools;
  • ensuring that audit and accountability arrangements focus only on the most valuable information to make the greatest improvement;
  • regularly reviewing the efficacy of ICT systems for planning and reporting, ensuring that they are fit-for-purpose and do not unnecessarily take time away from teaching.

The report also recommends that working time agreements and school improvement plans are reviewed with immediate effect to ensure that school developments have been properly resourced in terms of time.

The Report has been supported by Scottish Government, SQA, Education Scotland, COSLA, ADES and all the professional associations. HMI inspectors have been briefed on its content and advised to report, as part of the inspection process, on what it regards as excessive bureaucracy. It is therefore, an authoritative statement.

At the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee this week, Dr Alasdair Allan, Schools’ Minister, said that he expected the report ‘to be acted on without delay’. You should be aware that we have advised EIS school branches to meet to discuss the report and then to open up a professional dialogue about priorities and actions which might lessen the workload burden.

It is in this regard that your support for effective implementation of the report may be crucial. In the absence of, or in conjunction with, EIS school branch meetings, you might consider processing the report proposals through your school’s normal consultative measures or through a staff meeting / inset day activity.

Both COSLA and ADES signed up to the report so there should be some additional activity planned on the part of your local authority are keen to provide support to you in your crucial leadership role within your establishment.

If there any areas of the report, or indeed of the campaign in general, that EIS HQ might be able to offer useful guidance or clarification on, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Larry Flanagan
(General Secretary)

David MacKenzie
(Convener – EIS Headteachers’ Network)