The Teacher Workload Challenge
Education secretary Nicky Morgan has accepted the recommendations of three workload review groups into planning, marking, resources and data management, it was announced this weekend.
This news did not stop National Union of Teachers members voting for strikes to combat worsening teacher workload yesterday. However, the union’s leadership also welcomed the ideas of how to ease the problem suggested by the review groups. Any steps in the right direction and anything that raises more awareness of the problem has to be a good thing right?
Here are some of the main points and my thoughts, as a teacher, on them
Planning and Resources
Summary: Less formal planning and more collaborative planning. Teachers decide what their planning looks like. Schools to buy in textbooks and resources
- Senior leaders should not automatically require the same planning format across the school and should review demands made on teachers in relation to planning.
This has been suggested many times at different schools and seems to be something that comes and goes. Why should teachers have to plan in the same format? We all teach in our own styles. Surely as long as our teaching is good, the layout of our planning doesn’t matter? The only exception I can think of, is when leaving clear planning for a supply teacher- scribbles on a post-it don’t really work in this instance!
- A fully resourced, collaboratively produced, scheme of work should be put in place for all teachers for the start of each term.
I know of a few schools that are using their Subject Leaders to create schemes of work for all teachers to follow. When this is done in consultation with the other teachers, it appears to work well. It also helps support those teachers who maybe feel under confident in that curriculum area. I feel that this is a positive step as long as teachers are given the freedom to also use their own ideas and it isn’t used as a strict ‘you must follow’ type scheme and more as guidance if wanted.
- Teachers should consider the use of externally produced and quality assured resources, such as textbooks or teacher guides, and move away from a bias against them.
There is definitely a place for bought resources- you can’t reinvent the wheel and most resources you could possibly ever need are online nowadays. However, I think that we need to be careful that we don’t go backwards and rely solely on textbooks for each subject; how boring would lessons be?!
Also, who is paying for these resources? Schools need to be given a bigger budget to buy these resources in as at the moment, teachers spend so much of their own money of this type of thing!
- More staff should engage in collaborative planning instead of spending a great deal of time planning individual lessons.
This can work really well but what if you are in a single form entry school? Perhaps there are only 2 classes in your whole school (KS1 and KS2)! It also depends on your style of teaching, your relationship with your collaboration partner and are you given the same day/time for PPA to enable this to happen?
- ITT providers should review their demands on trainee teachers and concentrate on how to plan across a sequence of lessons.
Not much to say on this one as when I trained, we were taught to plan a sequence of lessons and there was a strong focus on this this. I think it goes without saying that this is a good idea as to plan a good sequence that encourages progress is key to development!
Summary: Less but more meaningful planning. Teachers able to decide what this looks like and what works for the children in their class
- There is “little robust evidence” to support the use of extensive written comments when marking pupils’ work.
This brings us back to the old question of ‘Who is the marking for?’ Sometimes it can feel like it isn’t for the children, that’s for sure!
- Providing written feedback on pupils’ work “has become disproportionately valued by schools and has become unnecessarily burdensome for teachers.”
- Instead, teachers should use their “professional judgement” to decide how best to mark work. They should “be more active” in using evidence to determine what works best.
I think that if the commissioners had probed, they would have found that teachers are ‘active’ in finding what works for children. However, with decreasing autonomy, it is very deflating when you are unable/ not allowed to act on these findings and ideas!
To give teachers the decision on how to mark would be great. In my view, as long as the children understand the marking used and it enables them to progress, is this not all that matters?
- All marking should be “meaningful, manageable and motivating”.
- This approach should be made clear to trainee teachers.
Yes but it needs to be the case in all schools first for this to happen! Currently marking expectations varies significantly.
- School leaders “must have the confidence to reject decisions that increase burdens for their staff for little dividend”.
Yes but I imagine that sometimes this is easier said than done with the pressures they face too. I guess it goes back to working as a unified team and supporting each other
- Some teachers are “wasting time” using “disproportionate” marking practices such as extensive comments that children in an early years class are unable to read.
Generally I have found that it is not the teacher that is choosing to complete extra-long marking!!! I have heard many a battle between school leaders and Early Years Teachers trying to explain that one marking system does not fit all!
- “If teachers are spending more time on marking than the children are on a piece of work then the proportion is wrong and should be changed.”
True. Only exception may be when deciphering a little ones early writing!
- “If your current approach is unmanageable or disproportionate, stop it and adopt an approach that considers exactly what the marking needs to achieve for pupils”
- The Department for Education should “disseminate” these findings.
- The accountability system “must encourage good practice rather than stimulate fads”.
Summary: More teacher autonomy with assessment and less regular formal assessment.
- People should not be rewarded for ‘gold plating’ – the process of collecting all data ‘just in case’ – as it is both “dangerous” and “unnecessary”
- Staff should not be asked for or duplicate collection of data collected elsewhere.
Brings us back to-who is this data for?!
- Schools leaders should conduct a regular audit of in-school data management procedures to ensure they remain manageable for staff
From talking to many teachers, often School Leaders are told the expectations on data is too much and nothing is done! However, schools now feel obliged to have evidence of everything so it is no wonder they’ve gone a bit data mad! Don’t get me wrong, I love a graph or 2 but a 20 page data report, every term, for every year group (poor teachers with more than one year group) isn’t manageable or necessary! We know our children, can plan to fill any gaps and don’t need to test them in silence with no access to resources to tell us what we already know!
- Schools should not routinely collect formative assessment data and summative data should not normally be collected more than three times a year per pupil.
As commented above- unnecessary and something I feel very passionate about, especially when the children are in Year 1 and just out of reception-just madness!
- Teachers need to record data accurately and ensure it is correct first time.
I don’t really like this point at all! What evidence says we don’t?! Also, children’s learning isn’t linear. They move forwards, stay still and regress- it is natural! It doesn’t mean that teachers ‘got it wrong’.
Summary: to back up previous points made!
- should continue to monitor inspection reports to ensure no particular methods of planning or marking are praised as exemplars.
- ensure training of inspectors emphasises the commitment in the framework.
Agreed. I feel there are other areas of training that would benefit them too but that’s a whole new can of worms that I don’t have time to open!
- continue to communicate the clarification paragraphs in the inspection framework through updates and other relevant channels.
Summary: To give notice when changes are implemented and support unnecessary additional data being produced.
- should commit to sufficient lead-in times for changes for which the sector will have to undertake significant planning to implement.
Yes! And also, if you are going to scrap something-replace it or at least suggest what you want instead!
- should use its influence to disseminate the principles of the report through system leaders.
- could consider including data management skills in national qualifications for school leaders.
How is this not included already?! But yes, definitely!
- should bring forward the release of both validated and unvalidated data to as early as possible in the cycle so it is available when decisions are taken to prevent unnecessary duplication by schools.
Thank you for reading-I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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