It’s a question that’s plagued schools around the country for years and in light of the recent teaching crisis it’s resurfaced back to the forefront of everyone’s minds, because despite how much we talk about it, teachers’ workloads are still a cause for concern.
When we look at the amount of hours teachers spend working each week and the additional pressures they’re under with budget constraints, growing class sizes and the implications of the current government’s stance on Grammar Schools, it can be overwhelming when trying to think of ways to tackle everything. This is especially apparent when some of the changes that can be made to reduce teacher working hours in the long term may seem small in comparison to the stress everyone is experiencing.
To help make the task seem more manageable we've come up with some ways you can reduce teacher workload and stress in your school:
Invest in technology, only when you can hold companies accountable
The thought of implementing whole-school technologies raises concerns for most schools. It’s almost inevitable that schools will have been let down by software companies in the past that have claimed to streamline processes, cut costs and ultimately reduce workloads for teachers and SLT alike. Because of this, it’s paramount that when entering into negotiations with edtech companies they show some evidence for the claims they make.
We’re lucky in that the profile of edtech has come to more prominence in recent years and key players in the industry have been around long enough to have customers who can vouch for them, or substantial facts that support their marketing messages. Just be sure that when you’re looking at software, the problem they claim to be solving, will have a positive impact on your staff’s workload.
Work together to evenly share the workload
It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew, especially when you’re trying to go above and beyond for your students, but sometimes, overworking yourself and not sharing the tasks you have, can be detrimental. Encourage collaborative planning at the beginning of the year between teachers, this way they can each be experts in respective parts of the curriculum, whilst saving time for themselves and other teachers in their department. By each owning areas of the curriculum and producing the plans and resources to complement them, the work only has to be done once for all to benefit. This also means that when it comes to teaching students the same topic, they’ll all be inline with one another and better able to support each other.
Revisit your marking policy
Grading work is one the biggest contributors to teacher workload and stress and it really needn’t be. Feedback and marking are undoubtedly important but emphasis needs to be focused on the quality of feedback as opposed to the quantity, as well as the ways in which feedback can be completed. We’ve completed a resource on time-saving tips when it comes to marking that you can use here.
However, in addition to this it’s important to remember that Ofsted don’t outline any expectations on the frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback that schools should be following, instead this is defined through the school’s assessment policy - this gives you the opportunity to make marking manageable for your teachers and in turn help to reduce their workload.
Don’t encourage negative working habits
It’s easier said than done but it’s important that as a school you don’t normalise the overworking of staff and promote a healthy work-life balance. This can be as simple as when you see a teacher working late, praise them for their hard work but don’t actively encourage it. We know that as it stands, teaching hours are long and tiring, but we shouldn’t normalise this - recognition and rewards can help to boost team morale even in the most stressful of times as well as encouraging them where possible to go home. A big part of this does involve leading by example from senior members of the team, and implementing whole staff rules such as having cut off hours on certain days of the week, not replying to emails on weekends unless absolutely urgent and letting teachers know that it’s okay to say no.
These are only some suggestions on ways in which schools can reduce teacher workload, and obviously a lot of what can be done to reduce the amount of hours teachers are working are out of our power, but until these higher changes are made, it is important we do as much as we can to make the teaching profession as manageable and enjoyable as possible.