Like 20,000 other teachers, before Christmas I completed Nicky Morgan’s Workload Challenge survey. We were asked to identify those tasks which we deemed necessary and burdensome, and to offer suggestions as to how to improve these.
I don’t know how others felt doing this, but I really struggled. I could think of a mountain of tasks which I undertake every week, many of which take a ridiculous amount of time. Many of them I begrudge doing, but all of them seem necessary. In a job where the to-do list grows ever longer and shows no sign of ever coming to an end, is there a possible solution? I’m not sure that there is.
Yesterday, I read the report issued by the DfE into their findings. Ironically, it’s 23 pages long, which took up time that could have been spent writing target sheets for Parents’ Evenings and marking books. It was an interesting read, admittedly, and it was reassuring to know that the 20,000 other teachers all have the same stresses and workload as I do, but I’m not sure it offered any solutions in the short term. It’s good to know that there are not going to be any immediate or imminent changes in strategies or policies, but I don’t know that any of the jobs identified as being time consuming can actually be reduced.
(Image taken from the Workload Challenge: Analysis of teacher consultation responses)
The top three responses (Recording, inputting, monitoring and analysis of data; marking and planning) are surely three of the most crucial elements of our job, after teaching? Perhaps the detail of planning could be reduced, which may work for many teachers, but I don’t know that quality lessons can be delivered day in, day out with only minimal planning. Data analysis is admittedly a burden, but in order to ensure children don’t get overlooked and slip through the net, it is a necessary evil. But then I would say that, I’m the Assessment Leader. In trying to devise a manageable yet efficient data tracking system, teacher workload is always at the forefront of my mind. As someone who is relatively au fait with Target Tracker and who gets excited by a colour coded spreadsheet, I’m quite happy to put a load of figures together and create a pretty graph. It probably wouldn’t take me long. Give me a pile of books to assess and I can probably find short cuts in data inputting to enable me to do lots of it en masse and then make tweaks. But I know there are many on the staff for whom the task would be incredibly time consuming. As Assessment Leader, I want the job of assessment to be done properly and to be done well, but I don’t want to be the source of stress for the others on the staff. Ultimately, it could be me who faces the questions from Ofsted about the progress made by children in the school, who we need to focus on and what we are going to do about it. What Nicky Morgan and her colleagues really need to do to reduce our workloads is provide guidance. I am all for freedom of thought, independence and creativity. But when that independence serves to add to teacher workload and stress, how can it be a good thing? The report (p16) promises that the DfE will “review existing evidence about monitoring and analysing data , as well as what data is most useful and necessary to improve pupil outcomes.” Great, really pleased to hear it, but by the time this information is shared by the DfE, schools will have new assessment systems in place and up and running, which will then need to be changed. Guidance before we all started on this rocky road would be far more beneficial.
Reading through the other responses from teachers, corresponding with parents, carrying out parents evenings and providing parental feedback all feature. How on earth can they think that this is an area where we can “cut back”? I’d love to have the chance to see more of the parents in my class. For many of them, I get to see them twice a year at parents’ evenings, for 10 minutes. How can I share all of their child’s successes in such a short space of time? I would happily sacrifice some of the other jobs for an extra chance to talk to our parents. We are currently changing school practise to get them into school more in informal situations, so that they can have more of an idea of what goes on in class. So many of them would be amazed if they could see how their child behaves in class and just how much they can achieve. Twice a year, I get to celebrate that with them, and, although the jam packed and late nights are exhausting and sometimes cause a childcare nightmare, I wouldn’t give them up.
Nicky Morgan, thanks for at least having a go at making our lives easier. I’m not sure you are going to succeed, and that’s something that I for one am going to just accept, and get on with the job that I love.