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What did you think about the policies announced in the White Paper? This, and how long teachers are marking each week...

5 April 2022

Last week was White Paper Week! On Monday last, the Government released its long-awaited White Paper, outlining its plans for the education system until 2030. Two headlines policies were the Parent Pledge and the minimum schooling hours. So, what do you, the teachers, think of this?

1. White Paper Round-Up – Parent Pledge

The government’s ‘Parent Pledge’ means schools will be required to inform parents whether their child is falling behind in English and Maths and provide targeted support.

While the majority of you are in favour of the ‘Parent Pledge’, your expectations for it are fairly low. Even those who support the policy are pessimistic, with more than 50% of you who broadly support the policy nevertheless thinking that it will be ineffective at raising standards. It’s safe to say that the more you oppose the policy, the less likely you were to think it will work.

So, why support the policy if you don’t think it’s going to work? Perhaps you like the idea in principle, but don’t think it goes far enough? Or think difficulties in implementation will render it useless?

Stacked bar chart showing the results to the question "Do you support the 'Parent Pledge' policy?", crossed with "Do you think it will be effective?"

Despite the shiny newness of the policy, telling parents their children are behind might already sound quite familiar to you – especially if you’re a primary teacher, as 87% of you already do this!

90% of primaries also already provide specific interventions to students with lower attainment in English and Maths.

It, therefore, appears that secondary schools will be affected by the Government’s new ‘Parent Pledge’ the most. Just over half of secondary English and Maths teachers say they inform parents if their child is falling behind, which means half don’t appear to – although more than that already provide specific interventions.

(Note: this doesn’t mean those secondary schools aren’t telling parents anything about their child. They simply may not couch it in the relative terms of whether the attainment levels are lower/’behind’).

Bar chart showing the results to the question "Which of these does your school already do?", split by phase and subject taught.

2. White Paper Round-Up – Length of the School Day

Another policy announced by the White Paper was the introduction of a minimum time that pupils must be in school – 32.5 hours per week. You can read a full debrief from co-founder Laura in TES here, but here are some highlights!

Currently, around 60% of schools are teaching 6.5-hour days (which would equate to a 32.5-hour week). Many of the remaining 40% of schools came in under the 6.5-hour mark by just a few minutes. This doesn’t appear to vary by phase, either – with 63% of primary and 58% of secondaries meeting the 6.5-hour mark.

Histogram showing the distribution of the length of the school day

Dividing further into the data shows that it isn’t necessarily teaching time that is being cut back in these schools, rather it is lunch and break times.

It turns out that schools that have shorter days have shorter lunches – schools that have children on-site for the full 32.5-hour week also have an average lunchtime length of 50 minutes. Lunchtimes for schools with less than a 32.5-hour week are 10 minutes shorter, at 40 minutes.

Looking at how close many schools are to the fabled 6.5-hour school day in the histogram above, those 10 minutes extra for lunch may make all the difference!

Bar chart showing the results to the question "How long is lunchtime for pupils in your school?", split by phase.

3. Get the red pen out – it’s time to mark!

A few weeks ago we asked about your marking policies and how often you mark books. One thing we didn’t ask back then was for how long you are marking!

Primary EYFS/KS1 and secondary maths teachers say they spend the least time marking each week. (32% of EYFS/KS1 and 29% of secondary maths teachers say they spend less than an hour each week).

KS2 and English teachers are spending the most time marking, with just 13% and 10% getting all their books marked in under an hour each week. In fact, 60% of KS2 and English teachers need three or more hours to get their marking done.

Stacked bar chart showing the results to the question "How much time do you spend marking students' work (outside classroom hours) each week?", split by phase and subject taught.

Though many of you spend a lot of time marking, the good news is that it seems to be reducing!

Back in March 2020, 36% and 27% of primary and secondary teachers respectively spent five or more hours per week marking students’ work. Now, this has dropped to 24% and 17%, respectively!

What’s more – almost twice as many teachers now spend less than an hour marking books each week than in 2020 – with 20% of both primary and secondary teachers doing so.

Given that we’ve seen a large proportion of teachers saying that technology has changed the way they are doing homework – with online automated programmes now more widely available – could it be that this is what’s making the difference? One for us to analyse in future!

Stacked bar chart showing the results to the question "How much time do you spend marking students' work (outside classroom hours) each week?", split by phase and compared to 2019 and 2020

4. New hires

Teachers who already know the pupils and the curriculum are very valuable to a school. Building relationships takes time, so losing teachers who are already embedded in the school community can be a wrench.

Furthermore, getting teachers into classrooms is more tricky at the moment due to low numbers of supply teachers. So are leaders anymore likely to try and persuade teachers to stay in their job than when we last asked in 2018?

Doesn’t look that way. Last week, 55% of you felt that your school would try to persuade you to stay if you left. This is five percentage points lower than when we last asked in 2018 when it was 60%.

Stacked bar chart showing the results to the question "If I decided to quit, my school would try to persuade me to stay", compared to when last asked in 2018.

However, several of you were quick to wonder whether certain groups might be persuaded more strongly than others.

One teacher suggested that subject might be an important factor, given that some subjects are harder to recruit. However, subject didn’t affect whether someone felt their school would persuade them to stay.

Another teacher suggested length of experience might make a difference. We did see that more experienced teachers are less likely to think their school would persuade them to stay (hence the larger red proportions). Is this due to the expense of more experienced teachers? Be sure to share your theories on Twitter (@TeacherTapp).

Stacked bar chart showing the results to the question "If I decided to quit, my school would try to persuade me to stay", split by experience.

Finally… we know you love the daily read, so here are the ones from last week

The most read tip from the past week was: Key takeaways from the new White Paper

And here are the rest for your reference: