I’ve spent the past 47 years in schools in some capacity, so have a lifetime’s experience of workload over an extended period. I’ve written some blogs about this in the past and the links are at the bottom of this post, for anyone interested.
A Twitter question in passing led to me offering some thoughts on the needs of a first time headteacher.
· Start from a clear, preferably audited, description of where the school currently is.
· Strengths/areas to develop.
· Create a map for development, term, year, 3 year.
· Projects; what, who, when, how much?
· Evaluation schedule.
· Communicate fully.
When I reflected on these, it gave rise to broader thoughts on the workloads of individual teachers and the demands that can be made by management.
Workload has always been a relatively simple thing to express in terms of work; expectations and available time.
The time is a finite element, in terms of the teaching load and associated expectations from disparate parts of the system, planning, preparation of resources, marking and assessment and any necessary meetings.
Expectations are also personal, in that each of us is aware of the need to ensure that our knowledge is appropriate for the teaching that we have to do. I have never met a teacher who didn’t want to d a good job. Maybe I have been lucky in that, but with teaching being a thinking job, thinking doesn’t stop at the school gates. In addition, it is probably a truism that a less experienced teacher will take longer over planning, preparation, marking and assessment than an experienced teacher.
System demands vary between schools; some expect x amount of planning, while others might need x+ or x-. This may be as a result of school insecurity in a world where external (Ofsted) validation is needed.
System and personal demand can alter from one year to another, especially in Primary, where total responsibility for a year group can alter from year to year. If this is coupled with a change of school, contextual differences can be significant. This is very evident when working with ITE trainees moving to a second key stage in a different school; earlier confidence from the first placement can soon be dented.
Ok, so what can be done to seek to support this variety of needs and avoid teachers looking like this?
· So, as a school, we looked at planning demands. There is a need to look at the planning needs over different timescales, long, medium and short.
· Every subject area developed subject specifications for each year group, showing what was anticipated as a minimum level of understanding to be developed during each topic. This took place during staff meetings, closures or bought in cover time. This was occasionally supplemented by taking finalists ITE students, which enabled a small amount of extra release.
· We eventually settled on an annual plan to show the coverage of the whole curriculum for the year. The structure changed with each new teacher, who could look at the overview and see their own linkage to get best advantage from successive learning. It allowed some element of creativity and utilised personal expertise. This was then captured within topic spec reviews.
· This was developed during half of a closure in late June or early July, before the summer holiday. It included a two-week topic of the teacher’s own devising, which would be the only detailed planning that would be needed during the summer holiday.
· On the second Friday of the autumn term, we had a closure, half of which was administration, the other half given to refining the planning detail of the rest of the term, based on the teacher knowledge of the new class. These plans were the teachers’ own plans and would only be referred to by others in development discussions, only on one occasion with reference to capability.
· School resources were sought to needs, especially after Local Management of Schools (LMS). Every February/March, subject leads were asked to list those things that had to be replaced or updated and a list of those “nice to haves” that would enhance the school offering. These lists fed the budget decisions and gave each subject lead their allocated budget. Resources were listed on the topic specs.
· Staff time was bought before PPA became an expectation, through the employment of PE coaches and a music teacher. In addition, I took the school, as infants and juniors for a half hour singing session, so that each half of the school could have a short meeting. How PPA time is allocated and then used to good effect is important.
· The timetable of meetings was decided largely at the outset, in general terms, with additional demand such as parent evenings or reports leading to no staff meetings in those weeks. Closure plans were linked to staff meeting schedules, so that follow up could be more effective; retrieval practice for staff meetings? Closures and staff meetings were largely devoted to subject development, once a month for admin, or a ten-minute noticeboard, to need.
· The NQT or newbie will need some support, so partnering or mentoring may be necessary for both, if there are not to be avoidable issues. A bit of help at the right time can be all that’s needed. A school where help is generally available, rather than “someone’s job” is better, in my opinion. Everyone a mentor would be my maxim, but I accept that for some purposes a single talk partner is needed, even as a headteacher.
· It’s also a need for every member of staff to be the eyes and ears of the school, looking out for each other, seeking to avoid the inevitable additional demands when a colleague is off.
There is one overriding question that everyone should continually ask; why are we doing this?
Collegiality and communication are key components.
More on workload