Swinney acts to reduce teacher workload

Deputy First Minister outlines actions to reduce burden on profession.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has acted today to reduce the workload on teachers as his first step to support improvement in the performance of Scotland’s schools.

Delivering his first parliamentary speech as Education Secretary, Mr Swinney said improving attainment across Scotland would be the “driving purpose of his tenure” as he set out early actions to ease the burden on the profession.

Mr Swinney’s comments come after a series of engagements in schools since his appointment to the role during which he has carried out face-to-face discussions with teachers about the pressures they face.

During his speech, the Deputy First Minister announced that the first report on the work of the Assessment and National Qualifications Working Group would be published today, and that he would ensure the actions within it to reduce teacher workload would be delivered.

These actions include removing unnecessary duplication in assessment tasks; expanding the support available for teachers at subject-specific level and reviewing the Quality Assurance approach for national qualifications.

Mr Swinney also announced that he had asked Bill Maxwell, the Chief Inspector of Education in Scotland, to take forward immediately one of the group’s recommendations - writing to schools with clear guidance on national expectations on qualifications and assessment that will further reduce unnecessary workload on teachers.

The Deputy First Minister also confirmed he had met Dr Janet Brown, the Chief Examiner in Scotland, to discuss any additional measures that could be taken to reduce workload. Mr Swinney has today received a letter from Dr Brown confirming that everything possible is being done by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to reduce workload at this stage without damaging the integrity of the national qualifications.

Mr Swinney has written back to Dr Brown indicating he will meet her every month to consider what action can be taken to improve the position on teacher workload yet further.

Mr Swinney said:

“Closing the attainment gap and improving attainment across education in Scotland - in other words the pursuit of equity and excellence - will be the driving purpose of my tenure as Education Secretary.

“One of the significant concerns I have heard is about teacher workload as a consequence of change within the education system. I am going to act today to reduce that workload as my first step to improving the performance of Scotland’s schools.

“I am publishing the first report of the Assessment and National Qualifications Group and implementing its recommended actions in full. These commit the Scottish Qualifications Authority to reduce teacher workloads in 2016-17 by streamlining their requirements for unit assessment, and by simplifying verification for 2016-17.

“The SQA has published subject reviews that will further reduce teacher workload next year and beyond, and is also publishing its evaluation reports today.

“I have met the Chief Examiner for Scotland to press her to further reduce the burden of assessment and examination. She has advised me that the changes I am announcing today go as far as they can at this stage. To go further would reduce the value, and damage the integrity of, our national qualifications that could create risks to their secure delivery. I cannot jeopardise the ability of young people to obtain the qualifications to which they are entitled.

“I will ensure that the SQA continues to take all the actions it can to achieve reductions in workload and will meet the Chief Examiner on a monthly basis to ensure progress promised is progress delivered.

“I have also met with the Chief Inspector of Education and insisted that Education Scotland sets out clear national expectations around qualifications and assessment that will further reduce unnecessary workload for teachers and provide clarity where it is required on the curriculum. The Chief Inspector is writing to all schools with that statement today.

“I hope there will be a recognition that within my first week in office I have acted decisively to address issues in front of me to reduce teacher workload and strengthen Scottish education.”

Notes to editors

The Deputy First Minister’s speech will be placed on the Scottish Government website here.

The first report on the work of the Assessment and National Qualifications Working Group has been published today and can be read here.

This group brought together the below bodies to make recommendations on how assessment policy and practice in Scotland’s schools could be improved:

Scottish Government; Association of Directors of Education in Scotland; Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland; COSLA; Colleges Scotland; Education Scotland; EIS; NASUWT; National Parent Forum of Scotland; School Leaders Scotland; SQA; Scottish Secondary Teachers Association; and other education and assessment experts.

The letter from Bill Maxwell to teachers in Scotland, and the guidance and advice document on improving the approach to assessments can be read on the Education Scotland website.

Yesterday, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government will bring forward a delivery plan to improve Scottish education. The First Minister also announced a summit on school reform and raising attainment. More details are here: http://ow.ly/Trb8300BHsn


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