Jake O'Keeffe, co-founder of Atom Learning

Jake O'Keeffe, co-founder of Atom Learning looks at the implications of a report from UCL on teacher workload barely reducing. He argues technology could provide the solutiion to this intractable problem:

A recent Institute on Education (IOE) report from UCL, "New evidence on teachers’ working hours in England" focused on the barely changing teacher workload.

Much of it will resonate with teachers across the UK: teachers work hard.

What may come as a surprise is that teachers have always worked hard; in fact, the median working week has not changed significantly over the last twenty years. For policy makers struggling to stem the tide of teachers leaving the profession, this is important.

Teachers cite workload as a key reason why they are leaving the profession but, as this report shows, it’s not just the number of hours worked that can be the cause for the fall in retention rates.

No doubt, teachers would prefer to work fewer hours, and so they should – with a quarter of teachers working sixty hour weeks – burn out is inevitable; first and foremost, though, it is the type of work, lesson preparation, marking and admin, that must be addressed.

Radical action

Government is not ignorant of this, though their solutions have failed because they are insufficiently radical: toolkits to manage workload, with surveys and multiple steps of evaluation, feel like more; not less bureaucracy.

The recent announcement to increase salaries for newly qualified teachers, while welcome to teachers I’m sure, is missing the point. Few teachers go into teaching for the money; they enter the profession because they want to teach.

Paying more to junior staff will not help long-term teacher retention and is not a long-term solution: salary increases motivate for months at best.

Government do need to pay teachers fairly, but paying teachers more alone will not improve retention rates. The way we teach in the UK needs to change radically.

Automating admin

Lesson planning and marking, frequently noted as the least favourite parts of teachers’ jobs, are well suited for automation.

Being well-prepared for a lesson and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of individual students in your class is vital to being a good teacher; spending hours collating resources and manually determining individual attainments is not.

Automating both could reduce teachers’ workload by circa fifteen hours per week and significantly improve teachers’ day-to-day experience. Combining high quality teaching materials with adaptive learning means computers can generate a personalised lesson for every student in the class in a matter of minutes, not hours, and provide teachers with real-time updates on students’ strengths and weaknesses with suggested follow up interventions.

Mass adoption of technology based classroom solutions would not only reduce teacher workload; it would standardise the base level of education in schools, ensuring all students had access to a minimum level of high quality education, going a long way to reducing education inequality in UK schools.

Government support

If mass adoption of technology in schools can significantly improve teacher retention rates, what can government do to accelerate the process?

I would not advocate government select platforms to impose upon schools. Different schools require different solutions that will never be satisfied by a single product. At any rate, competition is good for the market; technology decays so rapidly that all technology providers need to continuously improve their products to remain current.

Nonetheless, there are some things government can do:

  1. Firstly, government could consider subsidising the cost of technology solutions for schools in the same way green initiatives have been subsidised for end-buyers; in the long run it will save the government money, stymie the outflow of teachers and result in a better educated workforce.
  2. Secondly, government should consider how it can set standards of quality and format for digital teaching materials: it would ensure online content meets a base level of excellence and would facilitate easy transfer of content across technological platforms, resulting in increased innovation in education technology and flexibility for teachers.
  3. Finally, government should consider how they can educate teachers on technologies so that teachers can make informed decisions about the nature of the technology that they are being sold: AI is a nebulous term used far more frequently than it should be.

The IOE’s research provides strong evidence that government intervention to reduce workload has failed so far and that a more radical solution is required.

Technology is that solution, minimising the least enjoyable aspects of teachers’ jobs and reducing the overall hours worked so that burnout is reduced and teachers can once again focus on what attracted them to the profession in the first place: teaching.

Jake O'Keeffe, Co-Founder of Atom Learning

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page