Cut time in the classroom to one-third. It will be expensive, but it is what teachers need have a radical solution to stop the endless workload rhetoric offered by politicians in lip-service conferences typically attended by few classroom teachers, but filled instead with school leaders, policymakers and educators.
When the outcomes of the Department for Education’s “Workload Challenge’’ consultation were published in February it was alarming, yet not surprising, to read that unnecessary lesson planning was the chief concern of 38 per cent of respondents.
The report said: “Respondents … focus on the level of detail required in plans to be submitted, including annotated seating plans for each class and justifying their decisions made . . . to change and revisit plans during the course of a week as lessons have developed . . . tight deadlines to submit weekly lesson plans – including deadlines over the weekend . . .”
In the meantime, education secretary Nicky Morgan keeps saying: “I want to build a new deal for teacher workload – and I need your help.”
Imagine! Directed time for planning, marking and reflecting during the school day
So here it is Mrs Morgan; the answer is simple. In fact, the way to reduce unnecessary paperwork and unproductive tasks for all classroom teachers is so simple that it will astound many school leaders and politicians alike.
The only issue is that it is so unassuming some might think it unrealistic.
Allow me to convince you.
After 23 years in the classroom, the reader could calculate (broadly) that I have taught about 15,000 lessons based upon 190 days per academic year. It is on this basis that I’m certain it’s viable.
Remember, the full-time classroom teacher, day-in, day-out, teaches 90 per cent of a 25 to 30-hour timetabled week.
This leaves a mere 10 per cent of time allocated to complete two remaining, yet fundamental, aspects of the role: marking and planning. This places an incredible burden on that 10 per cent – and leaves all other tasks to be completed in our own time.
To reduce workload, we need to consider reducing teaching load to one-third. That way, we could teach for 33 per cent of the time and divide the remaining 66 per cent between planning and marking.
Imagine that! Directed time for planning lessons, marking books and reflecting on teaching and learning during the school day. The answer is so simple it will be sniggered at.
The proposal will cost money, which is why it may fall on deaf ears. But, if we want to move towards a best-practice model for reducing teacher workload, we should consider how teachers actually spend their time.
Plus, consider this final fact.
The DfE recommends that schools use 75 to 80 per cent of their general annual grant — the money paid to schools by the Education Funding Agency “based on a formula provided by [your] local authority”— on staffing. The amount is calculated from
a comparable school budget share and the number of pupils a school is responsible for. Guidance tells school leaders that the
grant is calculated with staffing expenditure based at three-quarters of a school’s annual budget.
Staffing costs represent the largest area of expenditure for all schools, with the relationship between the number of
teachers and pupils financially and educationally critical.
The key word here though is “recommendation”. If schools were to action a small increase in their staffing budgets beyond the amount specified, they could employ more staff, deploy other staff to share the workload and release many teachers from the constraints that we are all so accustomed to.
Beyond this, my manifesto for Nicky Morgan to support working conditions is also simple. She should give the profession time to consolidate, and trust teachers to carry out recent reforms. She should challenge the purpose of Ofsted and remove high-stakes accountability and numerical judgments from the process. She should share good news stories about the profession, with the profession, and she should listen to the profession and to evidence on what is important in schools.
I said that it was simple. Honestly, it is.
Ross McGill is deputy head of Quintin Kynaston Community Academy in north London