Teacher workload has reached critical levels. Indeed, according to the latest State of Technology in Education report, 81% of teachers believe workload is contributing to high levels of stress in schools. That’s up almost 20% from last year.
To make matters worse, an excessive workload now represents the biggest threat to staff retention. Furthermore, while more than 30% of educators believe staff retention is a challenge, fewer than 4% believe their schools are addressing the issue.
To meet this challenge head-on, urgent action is now needed. And, earlier this year, the secretary of state announced the launch of an expert advisory group to look at how teachers and school leaders can be better supported to deal with the pressures of the job. But, until much-needed government help materialises, what can schools do to mitigate and manage the workload issue?
Benchmark staff workloads
First, assess workloads to see whether this is having a negative impact on staff wellbeing.
To establish the extent of the workload issue in your school, carry out an annual study to identify any factors hindering the morale, engagement and effectiveness of your people. Once armed with this information, it will be much easier to create an action plan to address any issues.
Invest in the technology teachers need
Teachers must be given urgent access to productivity tools. For example:
- Real-time feedback and assessment technology to reduce the marking burden
- Apps, online forms and video conferencing (e.g. Skype) to minimise the time spent undertaking face-to-face meetings while keeping the lines of communication open
- Lesson and resource planning tools that allow teachers to customise and share lesson content, quickly and easily.
It’s also essential that SLTs provide the training and support necessary to ensure that teachers are comfortable using such technologies. However, teacher training has fallen in the list of priorities for the coming year, according to The State of Technology in Education report 2019/20. So schools must communicate that rather than being a ‘nice to have’, time-saving technologies and the necessary training to maximise them can alleviate time-management issues for anyone struggling to perform their core duties.
Reduce the assessment burden
While providing in-depth written feedback to pupils is still valuable, there is no doubt that triple or deep marking is hugely time-consuming. To reduce the burden of teacher workloads, SLTs must look at ways to modernise their marking practices. For example:
- Distinguishing between work that needs deep marking and work that doesn’t
- Using peer and self-assessment
- Eliminating the need for teachers to mark books at home
- Adopting a ‘no-marking’ policy
Technology can also be used to reduce the burden of deep marking. For example, with the Promethean ActivPanel learners can benefit from real-time assessment, with teachers providing live feedback before making a final assessment. So, schools can deploy the same sort of amending process, without the massive amount of marking work more traditional deep-learning methods require.
Use the DfE workload reduction toolkit
The DfE workload reduction toolkit provides practical advice and tools for school leaders and teachers to help review and reduce workload. Materials have been produced by school leaders, teachers, education technology advisers and teacher training providers, and have been tested with a range of schools across England.
As well as how to assess and address areas of excessive workload, the toolkit also provides valuable information on communicating initiatives to staff.
Create a wellbeing strategy
According to the latest Teacher Wellbeing Index, 74% of educational professionals don’t feel that they have enough guidance about mental health and wellbeing at work. So, in addition to finding practical ways to reduce teacher workloads, schools must also create a wellbeing strategy to address and combat the challenges of poor mental health. This could include things like:
1. Building a positive school culture
The frustration of an excessive workload can be reduced if it is acknowledged. So, SLT recognition of staff pressure is essential. Furthermore, it’s also important to show teachers other ways in which they are valued. For example, by welcoming teachers’ ideas, recognising good work and telling them how valued they are.
2. Adopting policies that promote a better work/life balance
Nobody working in education expects a typical 9-5. But, if SLTs want to retain teachers, creating a better work/life balance is essential.
Investing in modern technology that allows teachers to spend more time at home is an excellent place to start. Also, the Flexible Teacher Talent initiative provides details about how to normalise flexible working in your school.
3. Making sure teachers know about the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Providing confidential, 24/7 emotional support, the EAP helps educators to manage stress through specialist counselling, practical support and information. By using the programme, many issues can be addressed before they escalate. As well as offering CBT services and information on things such as childcare and legal and financial support, it also gives support to those responsible for managing others.
Fresh thinking is vital to address the challenges of your teachers’ workloads and increase staff retention. For more ideas on what educators want from their careers, and how SLTs can help, download the latest The State of Technology in Education 2019/20 report.