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Five ways to Reduce Teacher Workload in your School

Stressed teacher

Teacher workload is a problem. No one denies it. Just check out the Department for Education’s response to the Workload Challenge. “Too many teachers are spending too much of their time on overly detailed, duplicating or bureaucratic work”. It’s pretty clear cut.

Who suffers when teachers are overworked? The entire school community. Obviously, the teachers suffer – stress and anxiety doesn’t exactly lead to inspirational lessons. The children suffer as a result and that leads to an impact on the wider community.

In the education world, few things could be more important than reducing the workload of teachers in our schools.

So, what is the solution? Here, we present five ways that you can start reducing teacher workload in your school.

One: A Daily Workload Cap

Teachers are a dedicated bunch. They put the children ahead of their own wellbeing and that is something to be admired. It doesn’t, however, leave them functioning at their best.

You don’t expect teachers to run themselves into the ground but they might just do that if you don’t overtly state it. Why not introduce a daily workload cap?

David Anstead of the Education Improvement Board suggests that teachers should work for no more than two hours on top of directed time each day (and three hours for teachers with leadership responsibilities.

Would a clear signal like this made a big difference in your school?

Two: Maximise the Potential in Information Technology

Toby Salt of Ormiston Academies Trust highlights that the 21st century school has plenty of data on pupil performance. But how well does your school use that data? Toby suggests that schools are “data rich, information poor”. Does that sound like your school.

A well-tuned and optimised IT system can help your teachers to make better use of the information that they already have – rather than constantly collecting and entering data that never gets used.

Three: Teach Teachers that it’s Okay to say ‘no’

Tom Sherrington of Highbury Grove points out that teachers like to take on additional responsibilities. Their very dedication to their job can become a significant workload challenge in its own right.

His solution is to encourage teachers to say ‘no’ to things that they don’t have the capacity to take on. In particular, he suggests the phrase “to be honest, I’d love to help but I’m already struggling a little with everything else”.

Make sure that your staff know it’s okay to say when they can’t do something. You could even start a display in the staffroom – ‘This Week I Said No To’, which teachers can fill in when they’ve said that they can’t do something. Praise them for having the courage to do so. You never know, someone who has some capacity might even volunteer to take the task on. Which leads us to…

Four: Ensure that Work gets Shared

Some teachers will take on more work than others. It’s not that their colleagues are lazy or incompetent, they just haven’t mastered the art of helping or delegating.

Make sure that your middle leaders are fully trained in stewardship delegation – assigning work to someone in a way that gives them ownership of the task at hand. If you’ve taught people that it’s okay to say no, it’s not ‘fobbing the work onto someone else”, it’s teamwork.

Teachers might be superheroes but even the Hulk joins forces with The Avengers.

Five: Have a Marking Policy that Works

In the age of accountability, teacher workload can be the cost of providing evidence for inspection. One of the most common places where this can be seen is in a school’s marking policy. What value does a verbal feedback stamp give to the learner?

Ross Morrison McGill (famous for his Teacher Toolkit blog) suggests that schools should ditch any marking policies that cause teachers to waste “their time with marking gimmicks that do not have any impact on student progress”.

Have a careful, honest look at how your marking policy impacts on teacher workload in your school and see what can be changed or (better still) jettisoned.

Workload in your school

What are you doing to improve teacher workload in your school? What are your top tips? We would love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Alternatively, if you’re looking for even more solutions, then why not check out our whitepapers?

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