Reducing Teacher Workload

9 November 2018

Staff wellbeing vs Pupil progress.

Data entry vs Work/life balance.

Sometimes these concepts can seem like the Montagues and Capulets, warring factions with no resolution in sight. The workload burden forces many to leave the teaching profession, or not consider joining in the first place, but it is heartening to see it becoming a key consideration for many in the education sector.

This week saw an open letter to school leaders from the Secretary of State for Education in partnership with Oftsed, ASCL, NGA, NAHT and the Confederation of School Trusts. The letter was released in tandem with an advisory group report looking at teacher workload. Some of the sensible utterances from the report include:

  • In a number of schools, there are data practices that are not helpful for pupil progress and that increase teacher workload. Schools should question their existing practice to change this.
  • Unless attainment information can be collected with no marking or data inputting time outside teachers’ lesson times, we see no reason why a school should have more than two or three attainment data collection points a year, which should be used to inform clear actions.
  • Central collection of this information [behaviour data] allows schools to run centralised detentions, which can reduce teacher workload.

The last point there is a useful exemplar. It seems a sensible suggestion when considering the workload burden. However, making a change like this in a school will come with associated time costs, particularly in the early days and weeks of implementation. This is why CPD and whole school planning plays such a crucial role in making sensible suggestions on paper into workable realities. To change the data collection system and offer centralised detentions a school would need to consider:

  • A timeline working towards the new system starting. Perhaps a small pilot might take place with one year group
  • Training and communication to staff around a) the logistics of any new data entry process; b) an understanding of how this change is designed to address both workload, but also pupil behaviour. Where does this fit with existing staff CPD focuses?
  • Communication with parents around any changes
  • Who will facilitate the central detentions? Will pupils need to be collected? And what happens when there is non-attendance

A list like this may feel like a lot of work going into something designed to reduce workload. Indeed, this may be the case and it may be that out of a planning process a school decides not to pursue a new initiative. Not doing something can be just as useful sometimes. However, the opportunity cost of some ‘upfront’ time cost may be deemed worthwhile. The point is that making informed decisions is more likely if the implementation has been considered.

That is why our Leading Learning course makes profound use of the EEF’s Implementation Guidance Report. The three day structure is also designed to create space for colleagues to meaningfully plan, ensuring any decisions about change are not taken lightly, and are always done with an eye on the workload it may produce.

The advisory group’s workload report reports that 67% of teachers and leaders say their school had reduced or changed their approach to marking and 49% that their schools had reduced or changed their approach to planning. This is encouraging.

It is also heartening that reducing teacher workload is on the agenda of some of the most influential stakeholders in education, and that this is being supported by good evidence. To make alleviating the burden a reality though, careful planning around CPD and implementation is essential.

To book your tickets on our Leading Learning course click here.

Marcus Jones, Literacy-lead at Huntington Research School


Posted on 9 November 2018
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