Paperwork – for teachers it’s at nothing short of epidemic levels.
The stats are stark – and they’re thought to be contributing in big ways to the fact that half of all teachers plan to exit the profession in the next five years.
The big question is what, if anything, can be done to take on this timeless teacher migraine?
90% of teachers said they had considered giving up teaching during the last two years because of the workload.
87% said they knew one or more colleagues who HAD given up during the last two years because of the workload.
96% said their workload had negative consequences for their family or personal life.
Start by asking teachers
Teacher knows best. They do battle, every single day, with a growing in-tray. It should be a natural first step to ask them what their thoughts are on the challenges they face, and the potential solutions that may exist.
Ask them to identify what they consider to be paperwork that is essential for teaching, what paperwork is requested for school management and improvement, and what paperwork they view as being unnecessary and of little benefit to the school or improving student outcomes.
Match their responses with what you, as a school leader, have identified as being essential, requested or unnecessary, and try to find solutions that will automate the process of necessary paperwork as much as possible.
Obviously, anything you both deem to be unnecessary should just be removed from their workflow.
See how some of the more necessary paperwork tasks can be automated – technology is now available to help with monitoring, assessing, teaching, managing behaviour, homework, marking, etc.
Although the initial cost may be difficult to budget for, the benefits of happier, less stressed teachers should help you recruit and retain staff, and achieve better student outcomes.
If teachers can use technology to help them keep track of student performance and manage their learning pathways as part of a semi-automated workflow, it will become much easier to complete those essential tasks.
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Your governing body should be asking about school workload surveys – making sure that one is carried out and understanding the responses. And then helping the leadership team to find ways to help manage any unreasonable pressure, and working with the head to help them with their own workload.
Paperwork can often be seen as nothing more than a tickbox exercise – identifying which tasks these are and redesigning the process is key to handing time back to teachers and a focus back on the pupils, rather than it being placed on Ofsted, or school management.
We have to distinguish between writing lesson plans and planning learning. Teachers are fed up with pointless work and writing out a lesson plan that runs to many pages, just so that someone (school leader, Ofsted) can look at it, is a waste of time.
Adapt workload pressures to the ever-changing teacher schedule
One of the chapters in Managing Teacher Workload is from Robin Bevan, a head teacher, who writes about plotting the hours worked outside the classroom on a weekly basis to make sure that in weeks where workload will be high (report-writing, for example), other things can be cut – such as marking, setting homework, etc. It seems simple, but writing it down is powerful.
With pressure on school budgets, a lack of qualified applicants for teaching positions, and increasing difficulties in retaining teaching staff, an overabundance of paperwork can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
School leaders need to show that they are responsive to their employees’ needs, and demonstrate how they help their staff manage their workloads effectively.
If you can, find a school management platform that can help you manage paperwork centrally: attendance, assessment, behaviour, performance, learning pathways, exams, marking.
Whilst teachers would still be responsible for entering the relevant data, all subsequent processes should be able to be completed by non-teaching staff.
Help teachers to help themselves
Sometimes it is just about time management and prioritising tasks. No matter how much paperwork you automate, some people are not comfortable managing their own workflow.
Help them to prioritise by listing the order of importance of the various requirements of their role. Use a mentoring system to help the trickle-down of knowledge and experience, and ensure that more junior teachers are not overwhelmed.
Make yourself available to have one-to-one informal chats with your staff and listen to their concerns and worries. Even just vocalising and discussing their problems can help teachers discover their own solutions, and your advice can guide them to find an answer that works for them.
Above all, be patient and offer support. Your staff are your greatest asset…but not if they are unable to teach effectively because of the stress of long hours caused by an increasing workload.
If you want some help in reducing your school’s paperwork, get in touch to find out how EDLounge can help automate many of the processes essential to effective school management, simplifying workflows and improving pupil outcomes.