According to recent research, workload is the single biggest reason that teachers leave the profession. Apart from the human cost in terms of stress, there is also the huge financial and economic cost of replacing staff:
- Advertising the post
- Spending time sifting through applications to draw up a shortlist
- Spending time interviewing candidates
- Spending time following up references
- Paying for the DBS check of the successful candidate
- Paying for supply teachers if the new teacher cannot start as soon as the incumbent has left
- Possible training costs of the new teacher
In short, recruitment can easily cost the school a few thousand pounds in direct and imputed costs. It's therefore in a school's best interest to do whatever it can to reduce teachers' workload. What options present themselves?
Let's divide the issue into two sections, teaching and administration.
Although learning platforms have fallen into disregard in recent years, their underlying principles remain sound. If there is an area where teachers can store and exchange resources and lesson plans, it is possible to avoid, or at least lessen, the tendency to continually reinvent wheels, for the simple reason that work can be shared.
Teachers should also be encouraged to use self-marking tests where appropriate, such as when testing vocabulary. Once you've set the test up, you can use it again and again, getting the results instantly and effortlessly. If you wish to set one up using Google Docs, here’s a tutorial on how to do so: http://blog.chalkup.co/self-grading-quizzes-google-forms-tutorials-for-teachers-classrooms. Alternatively, search online for ‘quiz software’ and then try a few out. Many are free for a basic and branded version.
If the senior leadership team insists on written lesson plans (even though Ofsted doesn't), the least they could do would be to ensure that templates are provided. These could include drop-down menus for such items as Year Group. If your technical support department can’t set that up, you can easily create a basic one in Word. There’s even a ready-made lesson plan template in Google Docs. Even if you don’t like all the categories included (such as Kinesthetic Learners etc), at least it’s a starting point.
When it comes to data, the overriding principle should be WORM: write once, read many. In short, once data has been entered into the school's information management system, it should be easily usable for other purposes.
For example, if you take kids on a school trip, it should be straightforward to obtain a group list. If your school uses Messenger, you can take that list with you on a tablet or phone.
In fact, going back to the WORM principle, if a teacher has to enter any data that is already in the system, something has gone wrong.
Ideally, you should be able to use your information management system to help you identify students ‘at risk’ in your subject. But if it’s not set up to do so, then create a spreadsheet, import student names and marks, and apply Conditional Formatting to highlight all those students whose grade fell below a certain level. Once again, even though this involves a bit of work to start with, it does not involve laboriously typing in all the data that is already in the system. Furthermore, if you copy and then rename the worksheet containing the data, you can simply replace all the data with new data when the time comes.
It’s easy to tell if your school is not making the most of its information management system, or has not embraced the principle of reducing teacher workload as fully as possible: teachers will be entering data that is already in the system somewhere, or will be doing something that could possibly be automated.
So, the two questions to ask yourself are:
- Is it possible to automate this process in some way, such as by using a template in which some of the headings have already been entered?
- Has the data I’m typing already been entered by someone else, and if so, how do I get hold of it in order to repurpose it?