Time out: another point about teacher workload
Teacher workload. Right.
Teachers have a lot to do and there’s a lot being written and talked about in terms of SLTs tackling unnecessary workload, targeting teacher wellbeing and what teachers themselves can do to help their own workload. I think all of those three strands have a place in finding solutions to this issue.
However, I wanted to briefly mention that tackling workload isn’t always about reducing it. I’m thinking of the work many of our middle leaders have done this year. I lead on teaching, learning and assessment and have been working with our team of subject leaders to develop mastery and assessment approaches, including greater depth indicators, in all our subjects. It’s been hard work and satisfying. It feels cohesive and like we are so much clearer about what we’re trying to do than we were this time last year.
The key to getting this done (although it’s ongoing work to be fair) has been not to remove items from the to-do list that we wanted and felt we needed to work on, but give everyone proper time out in which to actually do it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that when it comes to the workload of middle leaders in particular, most of whom are also full time class teachers, this is absolutely critical. They can do great things and really take ownership of their subject (I’m talking from a primary perspective), if they are given guidance, a vision and a decent amount of time to get the stuff done. Yes, it can be a pain to timetable – definitely not one of my favourite tasks – but it’s worth it. If you want people to take their roles seriously and really crack on with the necessary work, without adding yet more to their workload, you put the time, and inevitably money, towards it. I’m quite astounded by the number of middle leaders I speak to who never get any time out to work on their subject. In these instances, either nothing gets done or it gets done at the expense of that teacher’s workload, doesn’t it?
Sometimes tackling workload doesn’t always mean reducing it.