The 7 Deadly Sins Of WorkloadFebruary 29, 2016
I think there are 7 things that schools I worked in (when I was full time) have done that made my workload excessive. I think they are all pretty common too. I would suggest any manager avoid forcing any of these on teachers.
- Detentions run by the teachers who set them. The difference a centrally run detention system makes is enormous. For all the excuses about “building a relationship” with kids that have behaved badly, schools that make teachers run their own detentions leave many teachers choosing between not enforcing the rules and doing hours of unpaid overtime. In my experience, these schools have very patchy discipline as a result.
- Excessive Meetings. Yes, things have to be decided, and CPD has to take place, but some schools actively find things to do to fill the time available for meetings up to the maximum. Why? Meetings should only happen when they serve a clear purpose and there should be an attempt to achieve that purpose in as little time as possible.
- Inflexible marking policies. Marking of one sort or another is always going to be a burden for teachers. But in the last few years these have gone insane. No longer is it something a teacher can do in dribs and drabs in order to maximise coverage. No longer can teachers decide what feedback (if any) would actually benefit their students based on their professional judgement. Marking has become something done 30 books at a time, in a variety of colours, for the sake of managers, not learning.
- Ill-timed assessments. Another one that can’t really be avoided, but can be made worse. Some schools seem to assess all year groups in the same week, leaving teachers with hundreds of tests to mark simultaneously, and often data entry to do at the same time. Often the data is barely used, because the school had no reason to collect it and the teachers were too busy to plan how to use it.
- Catch Up/Revision Sessions. The pressure on teachers to do unpaid lessons after school, often for students who haven’t worked in their regular lessons can often be impossible to resist. I don’t mind if this is in exchange for extra pay, or is in lieu of other lessons, or if managers who don’t teach a full timetable do this as a way to support their department. But in some schools teachers are just expected to do these as unpaid overtime every week.
- Inflexible homework policy. It’s good that students have work to do at home. But I’ve worked in schools where there were a maximum number of online homeworks allowed per half term, or a maximum number of homeworks that students marked themselves permitted. Homework is something where teachers should be free to be as ingenious as possible in finding ways that support learning, but don’t generate workload. And don’t get me started on schools that insist that every homework in every subject is marked with useful feedback every time.
- No textbooks. Not every subject has decent textbooks, but a textbook that fits the scheme of work can really save time. It used to be normal to start with the textbook and then plan for what could be done to improve on it with other resources and activities. Now, it is far more common to see teachers searching for resources for every single part of the lesson, none of which are actually more effective than a good set of questions from an old textbook. I know the anti-textbook attitudes in English schools have been criticised a lot lately, and I know there is not always a good textbook available, or within the budget, but I know of schools where new managers came in and actually binned textbooks that were being used effectively. Searching for resources online and spending hours photocopying is really not any better.