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Could scrapping the paperwork pile and meetings be the answer to retaining our best teachers?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Colin Harris believes he has a simple plan to tackle the workload crisis, but do you think the solution lies in just four areas?

    ‘It is rather more likely that we are spending endless hours perfuming menial tasks because that's just what is expected of us...

    Therefore, is it possible to come up with a simple strategy that can be adopted by all schools that would allow the question of working hours and, of course, work-life balance to be addressed.

    There are four keys areas that all leaders and governors need to look at. By tackling these areas, we may be allowed to return teachers to the job they actually enjoy doing – teaching. The school will need to act as a team and come up with a consistent and achievable approach in each of these areas.’
    Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades.

    What do you think? Do you agree with Colin Harris? If yes or no, why? What would your plan cover?

    mathswife likes this.
  2. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    No-one will disagree with the four problem areas identified by Mr Harris.
    However, it would all end in a heartbeat if OFSTED gave a RI rating for a school which had a pointless and onerous marking/assessment policy.

    Restricting meetings to two evenings a week is laughable. Meetings in any workplace are restricted to during work hours. Except schools obviously. Why should teachers be different?

    The article says:
    The most profound question to address is whether these extra hours spent in the school are actually improving the quality of teaching and learning.

    The profound question is why does anyone accept that a teacher's job cannot be done in the allocated hours.

    There is absolutely no evidence that heavy marking improves anything. Triple marking with different coloured pens became a trend which turned into one of those, "OFSTED requires it" lies. OFSTED have stated that they only check that the school marking policy is being followed. However, until OFSTED criticise a school publicly for having a ludicrous marking policy, it will continue.
  3. physicsfanboy

    physicsfanboy Occasional commenter

    Missing few key things.
    The expanded management teams generate meaningless work to justify their existence. They also cost a fortune. Sacking all the pointless managers (90% plus) would massively reduce workload. It would also free up a huge amount of money to pay teachers, site staff, tech staff and other useful people. Thus, the schools could stop getting rid of experienced staff in order to bolster management pay, and start to hire / retain experienced useful people. More experienced people do the job better. The school runs more smoothly, the lessons are better, behaviour would probably improve, retaining staff becomes less of an issue, less disruption due to staff illness or staff saying 'stuff this'. Maybe we could even spend some money on resources. Books, not new buildings. Unless the buildings are collapsing, in which case new buildings are a good idea.

    The alleged reason for the huge management teams is the demand for 'data' (almost none of which is actually data, just numbers). OFSTED are now not interested in data (allegedly). There is no longer any excuse for having lots of managers.

    What would also help enormously is if we teachers stood up for ourselves. It may or may not have been a profession before the evil that was Gove, but it certainly isn't now. The best thing we can do to improve education is to regain our self respect so that we, en masse, resist the slings and arrows of outrageous ministers.
  4. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    The old Army maxim 'bullsh.it baffles brains' applies as much to OFSTED, as it does to many other organisations.
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. moontitan

    moontitan New commenter

    Minimise the new ideas and initiatives, everyone needs stability and predictability in a job.
    I agree with the earlier post entirely, scrapping the bulging management teams such as assistant head teachers would be a good start. This is where the new initiatives come from as they have to justify their pay packets whilst the rest of us go round and round in exhaustion as they do and undo things.
    Ofsted should do zero notice inspections and they should be random, not every 5 years because in the lead up to the 5th year schools go mad as they will be expecting an inspection.
    Catgirl1964 and Jamvic like this.
  6. bramblesarah

    bramblesarah Occasional commenter

    This is so true please will you set up a school so I can work there. When I was at school there was one head teacher, 1 or 2 Depts (who taught) then 1 experienced teacher had responsibility for ks3 pastoral and 1 for ks4 (and they taught as well). If there truly is all this extra work for SLT then there must also be more work for teachers so cut contact time. I thought I was the only person who thought the budget problems could be answered by less SLT
    If they were doing things to reduce workload like creating resources or working with small groups of difficult students then fair enough, but you are completely right all they are doing is making more work.
    Catgirl1964 and agathamorse like this.
  7. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Occasional commenter

    So many of the things said above are true, but again, it really depends on the management of the school. I have been lucky to have taught on shorter-term, fixed contracts in several state schools, and I have seen lots of ideas and practices. I've worked for several HoDs and Heads, and was a HoD myself for a fixed term a few years ago.
    When applying for jobs, I have made sure I went to look round first. Those schools that wouldn't let me, I have not applied to. Those schools where I didn't think I'd fit in, or where I felt there was something wrong, I didn't apply to. I know we can't all be that choosy, but I think it has worked for me and my advice to any new teacher would be to do it that way if you can.
    Most of the time I have been happy and felt appreciated, got on with colleagues and respected the SLT. But in one glaringly different, large establishment, where I went because I felt pressured to take the job, I quickly felt stressed and unappreciated. The Head was decent and thoughtful, but not up to the job. You could cut the tension with a knife in he staffroom. My colleagues were pleasant, but so stressed that they had little time to help me get going. My HoD was highly competent but scared stiff. The timetabling system was insane and the layout of the school - a new build - was ridiculous. The only redeeming feature was that I had a couple of great GCSE classes, who were an absolute joy to teach. Despite these, for my own sanity and health I got out as soon as I could, and fortunately got a new post quite soon.
    If the Head knows what s/he is doing and your SLT are supportive and competent, I would suggest that the school will thrive, irrespective of Ofsted, the Government, or anything else. But if the opposite is true, then it probably won't be long before things fall apart. It's the same with a commercial company.
    drek and agathamorse like this.
  8. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    If you reduced the number of senior managers there would be less demand for paperwork/data. Each one seems to want or need something to justify their existence.

    I have data therfore I am?
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    restrict the working week to 48 hours. Assign specific amounts of time to specific tasks, and atop or shorten task if it exceeds allocated time. Enforce rigorously. Discipline any manager who tries to push anyone into more.
    agathamorse and Catgirl1964 like this.
  10. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Could scrapping the paperwork pile and meetings be the answer to retaining our best teachers?

    Pope, catholic
    Bears, woods
    agathamorse and Corvuscorax like this.
  11. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    Precisely. Those in power know this too but choose to retain the status quo. I wonder why?
    Shedman and agathamorse like this.
  12. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Occasional commenter

    To reduce my workload I would need less classes. I teach 20 classes per week. That’s 20 sets of books to mark, 20 sets of assessments to mark, and 20 lots of data to mark. My average class size is 30. This cannot be done in my allocated free periods. If I just did the basics (mark and plan) I would be in school after 3pm for hours every night.

    Never mind the meetings, extra curricular clubs, concerts, head of department duties, intervention, etc.

    Oh yeah, and toilet breaks and lunch. Who’s got time for that?
    drek likes this.
  13. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Occasional commenter

    But what if you can’t finish your work in that time? Will you be managed out?
  14. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    I think all that is being said here is that the job of teacher in the UK has been defined in such a way as to make it impossible to meet the demands of the job withing the working day.
    The continued acceptance that teachers should work outside of working hours and week ends is where the problem lies. Management come to expect it.
    If every teacher refused to work outside of working hours this nonsense would end in a minute.
    drek and Jamvic like this.
  15. drek

    drek Star commenter

    Right now any school that is expecting a visit from OFSTED is panicking. On top of that if there are any new promotions in the school, the trainee lead staff are transmitting the panic work flow down demands to staff who are in direct contact with groups of 30 or more children.
    Can you imagine the effect on those teachers.
    The lead staff have to provide evidence of leadership on the back of the paperwork and data evidence of the teaching staff and support staff.
    Every CPD is like Groundhog Day if you have taught in several schools and for several years.
    Trainee leads are learning to walk all over again which is understandable but every time they go for a training session with mentors or leads in other schools they come back with ‘ideas’ that they want to see happen overnight.
    And see what? Evidence of paperwork. Evidence of data. Evidence in books.
    I now begin every class nearly every week with....this week SLT would like to see.....in your books so let’s get started!
    It is much easier to institute changes if you are teaching half the number of students or have half the timetable or less than other teachers.
    Also easier if you have a very small percentage of pp or send students.
    Meanwhile the unlucky souls who have the burden of direct contact with these students are getting less and less support from the staff who are busy sitting in meetings coming up with ‘ideas’ that mostly involve copying and pasting chunks of text books and publisher resources to pass off as the school’s own resources. Such a waste of resources, time and effort.
    They won’t accept any feedback from staff ‘below’ them.
    They won’t apply any common sense to implementation or deadlines.
    They just demand demand demand.... it’s so sad, particularly as all this effort will come to naught if OFSTEd fails the school on the behaviour of students around the school whilst those who could most help are sitting at meetings all day......
    Jamvic likes this.
  16. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    If OFSTED gave RI for a school which has a ridiculous marking/data policy, it will all end abruptly. OFSTED do not do this. I have seen OFSTED reports which praise school management and never mention the out-of-school hours spent by teachers feeding the data beast. Work/life balance is not a priority for OFSTED.

    League tables force schools to cheat, or "play the game" as an ex pricipal of mine used to say.
    drek likes this.
  17. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    not if everybody rigidly stuck to the limit, because nobody would finish, ever, and no school could sack everybody, particularly if all replacements also stuck to the same limit.

    Schools would just have to adjust the workload downwards to a volume appropriate to their number of staff.
  18. Thank you Collin Harris for your article, I agree completely. If we think about it the time that it takes to complete a Boxall, Student Support Plan and Ed Report and or statistics (namely hours of a school day) is precious time that could be spent on research and lesson planning . We can't afford to rally around the frivolity of multi tasking when it comes students learning, which we have a duty to serve them. Thank you
    drek likes this.
  19. SparkMaths

    SparkMaths Occasional commenter

    Every minute of work done by a teacher should be working towards providing learning opportunities for their students, none of it should be spent creating data or resources for appraisal. The job interview should be where you check if someone can do the job.

    Lesson plans, objectives/school policies on the whiteboard for observers to read, giant spreadsheets updated every half term with weekly/half termly test results... they all need to go.
    drek likes this.
  20. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    Absolutely agree about pointless meetings as well. Sitting through inset day 'training' listening to someone who has been asked to lead on yet another initiative when there are so many practical tasks that I could be getting on with is spirit-sapping.

    I think the problem is that SLT feel it is somehow less worthy if teachers are spending time checking that the classroom equipment is all in working order for example, rather than discussing some pseudo-research which suggests there is a magic bullet to prevent underachievement. The reality is though that teachers are drowning in the day-to-day basics of the job and so have little time left for innovative ideas.
    drek likes this.

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