Pupils suffer as school leaders are forced to abandon lessons to stand in for heads

Workload is rocketing for deputies and assistants as headteachers are distracted by curriculum and exam reforms, the NAHT headteachers’ union says

The majority of deputies and assistant heads who teach are increasingly being pulled out of lessons to cover for headteachers, prompting serious concerns over the impact on pupils’ learning, new figures reveal.

A poll, shared exclusively with TES, shows that four in 10 deputies and assistants are working a soul-sapping 60 hours or more a week as they try to balance a significant teaching workload with leadership responsibilities.

The growing need for these senior leaders to cover for their bosses has arisen as headteachers’ time has become increasingly dedicated to dealing with the reforms to curriculum and assessment, as well as the need for schools to work more closely together, the NAHT headteachers’ union says.

Primaries and smaller schools are worst affected by the issue, but it is also becoming a problem in secondaries, the research finds, as the union begins its annual conference today.

In the survey of nearly 800 NAHT members who work as deputy and assistant heads, 50 per cent of respondents who teach said that they were pulled away from lessons once a week for unforeseen events and emergencies, such as incidents of bad pupil behaviour.

Some 57 per cent said the amount of time they were spending away from their day-to-day teaching had risen. This means that children are being left with higher level teaching assistants, supply teachers and teacher colleagues.

More than eight out of 10 of those who said they had to abandon their classes to deal with leadership duties reported that it had “a negative impact on the learning”.

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, which represents middle leaders in schools, stressed: “The smaller the school, the harder it is. There is greater pressure on them to be in the classroom. The situation is more acute.”

The Department for Education said it was aware that unnecessary workload was “one of the biggest frustrations” for teachers.

This is an edited article from the 29 April edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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