Teacher Wellbeing - The Workload Challenge

Author: Louise Raw

Posted: 29 Jan 2015

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

Last year, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan gave teachers the chance to voice their concerns in The Workload Challenge, as a means to call upon them for feedback on their unnecessary admin and daily burdens. workload challenge schools

With the 6 week response deadline to the 44,000 teachers who took part approaching, The Workload Challenge was a key topic in speech at The Bett Show on 21st January 2015. 

The results

With tens of thousands of teachers jumping at the chance to have their say, the responses flooded in highlighting the following improvements teachers want to see: 

  • Fewer administrative tasks and data collection, in particular evidence of lesson planning
  • More time for planning, marking and preparation
  • Better guidance about evidence needed during Ofsted inspections
  • Fewer, more effective meetings
  • Improving IT in the classroom
  • Realistic expectations for marking pupils' work

The 6 Week Turnaround

With a promise to respond to this survey in just 6 weeks, this got us thinking; can each of these issues truly be addressed in such a short space fo time, and which, if any, will have to remain as necessary evils?

  • Fewer administrative tasks 
    Firstly, it's not easy to determine what denotes 'unproductive' or 'unnecessary' work, above all when these same tasks have been hailed as crucial in securing a robust education system for years, and when many teachers will agree that their purpose is still important (take providing consistently good lessons across all classes, steady student progression and making sure that homework set it relevant, for example). 

    The key here is to avoid lengthy admin tasks, doubling up on unnecessary reports (and therefore workload) just to jump through hoops, and ultimately, to cut any requirements that will not impact on ensuring that students receive the best teaching and learning experience possible. 

    But how can these really be reduced? Rather than bypassing these altogether, shouldn't teachers be given as much information as possible on the outcomes of these tasks, so that consistent processes can still be achieved, without surplus time, effort and data? 

    This will be one of our most-awaited responses. 
  • More time for planning
    With only so many hours for travelling to and from work, eating and sleeping, finding yet more time for lesson planning seems verging on impossible. Yet the 2013 Review of efficiency in the schools system comments on schools in partnerships or clusters who are able to employ the economics of scale to cut down on staff planning.

    The response we expect to see here, as alluded to in Nicky Morgan's Bett Show speech, is the aid of technology to streamline this process. Our personal thoughts for those not in a position to call upon neighbouring schools and academy trusts, is departmental resource sharing, and implementing easy to reuse resources year on year.
  • Better Guidance for Ofsted Inspections
    This one came as no surprise. 

    Pre 2012: An Ofsted inspection focused on the central management of the school, using self-evaluation forms to document leaders' capacity to improve. This model saw a decrease in Outstanding Schools and an increase in Inadequate ones. 

    January 2012: Satisfactory schools were relabelled 'Required Improvement' with the expectation that they should not stay in this category. 

    June 2014: Shadow Secretary, Tristram Hunt, states Ofsted 'not fit for purpose' in light of Trojan Horse Schools, Free Schools and Academies. We also see the dawn of 'How to get a Good Ofsted' guides. 

    January 2015: Sir Michael Wilshaw to appear before the Parliamentary Education Select Committee to discuss annual report in state schools, and no doubt reply to statements made such as the inability for 'different inspectors in the school on the same day [to give] the same judgement'. 

    With frequent changes and the School Inspections Criteria coming increasingly under scrutiny,schools are left feeling shafted by the system, having to second guess Ofsted's next move and their school's outcome. Any guidelines should be thorough, evidence needed clear and obtainable, with more opportunities for schools to show evidence of their efforts and achievements at any point, not just over a 2 day visit. Rushes to collect data and out-perform will never be a true representation of the school.
  • Fewer, more effective meetings
    This point goes hand-in-hand with No.1. There are easy ways to reduce the time spent on any one meeting, but the real impact will be from a top-down approach, by reducing the number of meetings, or key people needed at each. 

    For individual meetings, there are always ways to streamline these: 

    Prep every member about what you will cover and what you need to achieve.
    Outline the time parameters and make it clear the meeting shall not overrun.
    Cut conversations short pertaining to a different topic.
    Leave enough time to run through conclusions and individual's action points.
  • Improving IT in the classroom
    It's easy to buy and introduce new technology, but if it's not intuitive and will end up costing precious time rather than saving it, there's no point. New software should be easy for teachers to pick up, they should be given full support and training, and not left and expected to use programmes which double-up on processes they are already required to make. 
  • Realistic expectations for marking students' work
    This, we cannot agree with more. Formative assessment and clear, transparent expectations are absolutely key to creating a healthy, mutually respectful working relationship between school and home.

Whatever the response, we are waiting expectantly to see if these core issues really can be improved. It's comforting to see that it's not all bad news, and the speech Nicky Morgan gave at The Bett Show really did highlight the brlliant technology that we are surrounded with; the only worry is that with the excessive guidelines teachers must adhere to, do they have the resources to harness this?

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