FFT Education and UCL Institute of Education will soon be conducting the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) in England, on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE). The previous round was in 2013, and the report can be found here: https://www.oecd.org/education/school/UK-TALIS-2013-national-report.pdf. This is part of a major international study of the teaching profession and involves over 40 other countries across the world. Over 350 primary and secondary schools in England will be taking part, gathering information from around 5,000 teachers about their attitudes and experiences of working in the teaching profession.
We, of course, appreciate how busy teachers already are, and it can feel that there are increasing requests for participation in research. TALIS, however, is unique in its potential to influence the views and priorities of senior education policymakers in England – and previous experience has shown this.
The impact of TALIS 2013
TALIS was last conducted in England in 2013. It was one of the first truly nationally-representative studies of lower secondary school teachers in this country. This, accompanied by the fact that the data was analysed and results reported by a group of independent academics, and compared to over 30 other countries, meant that DfE took the findings very seriously. It resulted in some really hard-hitting messages being fed back to them.
In no case was this more apparent than for teacher workload, with an extract from the report presented in Figure 1. The vertical axis illustrates the number of hour’s secondary school teachers in England spent, on average, teaching pupils in 2013. England appeared to be fairly average in this respect, and did not particularly stand out from other countries.
The same was not true, however, when one considered the total amount of time teachers spent on all their daily tasks (horizontal axis) – secondary school teachers in England generally worked more hours than teachers in most other countries. The key factor driving this result was that teachers in England were spending much more time doing other ‘non-teaching’ tasks (e.g. preparation, marking, administration) than teachers in other countries. Findings from TALIS 2013 were therefore vital in highlighting teacher workload – and, particularly, the amount of time spent on non-teaching activities – as a key issue to the DfE.
This has since resulted in significant policy attention. In response to the TALIS findings, DfE set up three independent teacher workload review groups which have now been reported and published an action plan, with a full update of work and future commitments to help reduce teacher workload, amongst a host of other activity.
The importance of TALIS 2018
The above illustrates how TALIS can act as the ‘voice of teachers’ in this country. Questions on workload will again be a key feature of the survey in 2018, allowing us to see whether the time spent on burdensome non-teaching tasks has reduced. This time around, primary school teachers will also be included, enabling them to share their views and experiences of working in the profession. Important new topics have also been introduced, such as establishing the areas teachers believe the government should prioritise for extra investment. Within our national reports, we will feed back independent evidence from TALIS 2018 to the government, and identify what the results show are the most pressing challenges teachers are facing.
Figure 1. The relationship across countries between average hours worked (horizontal axis) versus average hours actually spent teaching (vertical axis)