SCHOOLS have urged parents not to bombard staff with emails, in a bid to protect them from 'increasing' workload pressure.

The Henry Box School and Queen Emma's Primary School in Witney, as well as Finstock CE Primary School near Chipping Norton, have sent pupils' parents a two-page guide to home-school communication.

In the identical letter signed off by the schools, which are all run by the Mill Academy trust, staff pointed to a 'national recruitment and retention crisis' in classrooms partly fuelled by 'unreasonable workloads'.

It set a five-day response time for parent emails and said they should be sent during school time, to avoid 'anxiety' while staff are not working.

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They wrote: "Our staff go over and above every day and we want to keep them in a profession they are fully committed to.

"Even Ofsted have acknowledged the increasing demands on teacher time and the impact that this is having on the profession."

According to a new Ofsted inspection framework brought in in September, inspectors have to consider if school leaders are doing enough to consider the workload and wellbeing of staff.

They must ensure their expectations of workload are realistic, and protect staff from bullying and harassment.

The letter, sent before the end of term, said: "On any one day a teacher will have a plethora of demands on their time.

"Teachers cannot and are not expected to monitor and manage their inbox during lessons or at other times in the day, when they should be planning and preparing lessons, assessing student work or carrying out school duties."

The letter stressed that parental communication is 'essential' and staff did not want to discourage contact, but that the priority must be their core role of teaching and learning.

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It said while email was an easy and useful method of contact, there was an 'increasing expectation for almost instantaneous reply'.

Staff said that within 48 hours of an email being received, it will be acknowledged - providing it is during term time and not at a weekend.

A response will then be sent within five working days, either via email or telephone.

The guidance added: "We would ask that emails are not normally sent outside of a member of staff's normal working hours.

"Mobile phones and other electronic devices that enable staff to access their school emails when away from school can make it difficult to ‘ignore’ a message from a parent, leading to unnecessary worry and anxiety on the part of the staff."

Parents were warned that 'rare' instances of aggressive, unreasonably demanding or harassing emails will lead to the recipient raising concerns with a more senior member of staff.

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The letter added: "A great many staff are working extremely hard in trying to help our children achieve well.

"The school has a duty of care to staff, as it does to children.

"This includes a responsibility to ensure that the staff workload is manageable and does not unreasonably intrude in to their private life."

In a government survey published in October, 21 per cent of primary teachers and 37 per cent of secondary teachers said workload was 'a very serious problem'.

Half of all teachers surveyed nationally said workload was a 'fairly serious problem'.

Most said they could not complete their workload within their contracted hours and that they did not have an acceptable workload.

This year, research by the NASUWT teaching union found that 'half of teachers say that work-related emails are significantly driving up their workload and invading their home life'.

At the time, its general secretary Chris Keates said: "There is now an unreasonable expectation that they are available at the convenience of parents."