Teachers who work “too many hours” are set to be offered extra financial incentives and a matchmaking-style service for job shares in a bid to stop large numbers from leaving the profession.

These are just some of the plans announced by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, as part of a government strategy to tackle teachers’ workload and shortages in personnel.

Hinds isn’t the first education minister to highlight the importance of improving teachers’ work-life balance – and it is likely he will not be the last. 

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Only last year, a global study found that British teachers work harder than peers in most other countries in the world. They give up 51 hours a week on average.

Perhaps it is no surprise that many burn out.

Since the departure of the controversial Michael Gove from the Department for Education in 2014, a string of ministers have promised to prioritise the issue.

During Nicky Morgan’s tenure teachers were finally surveyed to find out the causes of “unnecessary workload”. She subsequently argued that teachers should not be expected to answer emails or spend hours marking schoolwork after 5pm each day.

Morgan also announced plans to launch a new website to make it easier for women to identify potential job-sharing partners.

Three years on and not much appears to have changed. Just last week, Hinds said teachers should not be spending their evenings and weekends responding to emails. The minister also revealed proposals to give more support to teachers who want to work part-time and share jobs.

If the rhetoric has remained the same since 2014, despite three different education secretaries, at least now the government has announced plans to provide more funding to improve retention.

Teachers at the start of their career – who are often those who need the most support – will be given a training package and a reduced timetable, backed by at least £130m a year, under the proposals.  

And some new teachers in England could be given an additional £5,000 in their third and fifth years in the classroom in a bid to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis within the profession.

The move has been broadly welcomed across the sector. But for the strategy to be effective, headteachers must be on board. They are in charge of school workload polices.

And let’s not forget that more than 50 per cent of children in state schools in England are now taught in an academy. And these schools have many more freedoms to decide how they will manage their staff.

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It will take a lot more to change the culture in schools. Marking and planning lessons late into the evening and at the weekends is normal for many teachers. And headteachers who fear bad exam results, or a poor Ofsted inspection result, may be reluctant to take a more relaxed approach.

Meanwhile, funding pressures will inevitably increase the pressures on staff as they struggle to keep the same provision in place with fewer teachers and resources.

The extra cash and resources to reduce workload and normalise part-time work is welcome. But I would not be surprised if we hear similar ministerial rhetoric and pledges in years to come. There appears to be no magic bullet to poor work-life balance and shortages within the profession.

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