Sunday 11 March 2018

Workload - an issue that cannot be solved

Teaching (in secondary schools at least) is a competition. The number of students who will get certain grades has already been decided and no student has even made a mark on an exam paper yet. Every school’s cohort has to be above average. Yet, an average means that if one school makes more progress and other has to make less.

So it’s my job to prepare my students better than you. If I can’t? Performance management means I have to evidence that I at least tried, which manifests itself in extra resources, revision classes and individual interventions.

Teaching is a competition where I have to work harder than you.

No education secretary is about to change that. So we need more time.

Teachers need more time so that when they go into a classroom they feel that they are prepared for the lesson they are about to teach. They have planned the questions they are going to ask, they have read and marked the work of the students so they are ready to address the misconceptions that might come up or tackle the weaknesses the students might have. In science the teacher has had time to think about how they will best organise the practical work so that the students get clear instructions and learn the most they can from doing it. Teachers need to prepare schemes of work or edit, supliment or refine the ones they are teaching. Teachers need time to produce resources for students with learning needs, for example enlarging resources or adding images for those with low vocabulary.  Teachers need time to talk to colleagues, sharing ideas and picking up alternative strategies. Teachers need time to pass on concerns about students and discuss how to support them.

Teachers need time to go to the loo.

So, as far as I see this is the solution to the workload crisis:

But it can’t happen. If we teach less we need more teachers. There are not enough teachers as it is. The school population is still growing. It would create as many issues as it solved as schools compete over teachers and those in difficult circumstances would be in very difficult circumstances indeed without teachers. I know good schools who have received no applications for jobs in shortage subjects.

However, in every decision he makes in every discussion he has it is my dearest wish that this is in his mind as what he needs to do to improve the conditions of those in the profession and improve standards too.

However, I hink there is an alterior motive behind the focus on workload.

What worries me intensely is that the discussion about workload is about solving the teacher shortage. Does Damian Hinds think that we are doing unnecessary paper work that if it was removed means we could be teaching from 8am to 3pm without any PPA time during the week? Those two hours a week a standard scale teacher gets could go a long way, adding another few percent capacity to the system. We would still have an hour and a half to mark books and plan lessons after school and all those holidays...

Damian, this isn’t possible. My advice? Take your cap to Phillip Hammond. Ask for a bigger payrise for teachers. Force schools to give the M1-6 increments automatically again. And seriously consider making our pension scheme attractive once more. These are things you can do right now. It might help retention, it would help us feel valued. It all costs money.

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