No teacher expects an easy ride. The job demands a lot and most staff understand that. But how much is too much? More than 8 in 10 teachers say workload is contributing to high levels of stress in schools. That’s 20% more than last year, according to the latest State of Technology in Education report.
Earlier this year, the Government launched an expert advisory group to investigate the scale of the problem and devise potential solutions. In the meantime, while workload mounts in schools across the country, what can SLTs do to give them urgent relief?
From technology for instant assessment to government toolkits, here are 10 tips for SLTs to improve teachers’ workloads:
1. Take the problem seriously
When teachers struggle to manage their workloads, schools struggle to hold onto their teachers. The State of Technology in Education Report 2019/20 reveals more than 30% of educators believe staff retention is a challenge—but fewer than 4% believe their schools are tackling the problem. Workload should be a top priority.
2. Determine who needs the most help
Every school is different and every individual copes with different levels of stress. That’s why it’s important to get a feel for how workload really impacts your teachers. An annual study is a great way to give teachers a voice and pick up on any issues that may be affecting team morale. This will enable SLTs to prioritise the actions that will provide the most relief.
3. Modernise your marking
Pupils need feedback, but is there a more efficient way to do it? Triple or deep marking is time-intensive and perhaps not always necessary. And some marking may not be necessary at all. SLTs can further reduce the assessment burden by introducing peer and self-assessment or putting a stop to teachers marking at home. Technology can also help…
4. Invest in technology for instant assessment
Technology should make teachers’ lives easier. Promethean ActivPanel is a great way to modernise marking. The interactive front-of-class display enables teachers to provide live feedback before making the final assessment—dramatically reducing the marking associated with more traditional deep-learning methods.
Beyond technology for instant assessment, there are plenty more productivity-boosting solutions to explore. Lesson and resource planning tools allow teachers to customise and share lesson content quickly and easily, while apps, online forms and video conferencing are less time-consuming ways of updating and communicating with students.
5. Provide adequate training—it’ll save time later
Teacher training has fallen in the list of priorities for the coming year, according to The State of Technology in Education report 2019/20. That’s a pity, because if teachers aren’t confident in using tech, they won’t be able to take full advantage of its time-saving benefits. Remember, the trick with training is to…
No one likes to think they’re being distracted from their urgent priorities for no good reason. SLTs can get teachers onside by sharing their vision and explaining how their priorities will benefit pupils and staff, especially when some initiatives will actually save teachers time; a few hours spent getting to grips with tech will more than make up for it in streamlining core tasks.
7. Use the DfE workload reduction toolkit
The DfE has produced a stress-busting toolkit for school leaders and teachers with practical advice and tools to help review and reduce workload. The toolkit includes proven activities and materials created by and for educators across England. In addition to tackling workloads, the toolkit explains how SLTs can effectively communicate these initiatives to staff.
8. Create a nurturing environment
Mental health and wellbeing strongly affect how we manage our workloads. Unfortunately, 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. Overworked and frustrated teachers will respond more positively to SLT members who recognise the pressures they are under and do their best to support them, welcome their input and reward their hard work.
9. Promote the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Help your staff to address mental health and wellbeing issues early with this 24/7 service. The EAP provides specialist counselling, practical support and information—including CBT services and childcare, legal and financial advice, and support for those leading teams.
10. Explore flexible working
Workloads can only be reduced so much, but there’s often significant scope to make working more flexible. Give teachers the technology—and the autonomy—to decide when and where they do their work, whether that’s in school or at home. For extra insight on implementing flexible working, check out The Flexible Teacher Talent initiative.
Managing workloads takes a combination of structural change and creative solutions. For more insight into the world of education, and how SLTs can help reduce the workload burden, visit the latest The State of Technology in Education 2019/20 report.