DfE ditches international survey to reduce ‘workload burden’

The Department for Education (DfE) has decided that schools in England will not take part in the next edition of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) in 2024. TALIS, administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and first undertaken in 2008, is a worldwide evaluation of the conditions of teaching and learning in different countries. In the most recent edition in 2018, more than 260,000 teachers and 15,000 school leaders from 48 countries took part via a questionnaire. Among the findings for England were that teacher workload had increased since 2013, and that lower secondary teachers were the most stressed among all developed nations participating. It also found that teachers in England were on average younger than their counterparts, with an average age of 39, compared to 44 across the other countries participating.

Explaining the decision not to take part in TALIS 2024, a DfE spokesperson said: ‘To reduce the considerable workload burden of data collection placed on schools across the country, we have decided not to take part in the upcoming Teaching and Learning International Survey’. However there was quick pushback from teaching unions. In a joint letter to schools minister Nick Gibb, the leaders of five unions - the NAHT, the ASCL, the NASUWT, the NEU and Voice - criticised the decision which they said had been made ‘without any engagement with key stakeholders’. They also expressed surprise at the given reasoning, noting that: ‘experience from our members does not lend support to the view that engagement with TALIS is particularly time consuming or burdensome and that the move to producing TALIS every six years will further mitigate any impacts in this respect.’. The union leaders praised the ‘unique insights’ to be gained through participation in TALIS, calling it a ‘powerful tool’ for policymakers. ‘England’s poor performance against OECD countries is no reason to withdraw from TALIS. On the contrary we believe it makes our participation more vital.’, they suggest. The OECD have said they intend to expand TALIS 2024 in terms of ‘scale, depth and scope’, looking more deeply at areas like teachers’ pedagogical practices, professional development opportunities and special needs education.

Although as it stands they will not be participating in TALIS 2024, English schools will continue to participate in other international exercises, such as the main element of the PISA league tables. Due to the coronavirus pandemic these will now take place in 2022, rather than next year as originally scheduled. However, the DfE have opted not to take part in a new, optional ‘creative thinking’ element of PISA. It is also understood that the DfE may be planning its own surveys on teacher conditions, with Schools Week reporting last month on a government tender for a longitudinal study looking at the ‘key drivers’ affecting teacher recruitment and retention. A DfE spokesperson said: ‘We will continue to take part in a number of international studies in the coming years, as well as conducting our own national surveys to review performance and ensure that students and teachers can benefit from an excellent education system.’

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