Take a step back and it isn’t immediately obvious why anyone wouldn’t want to be a primary school teacher. You’re a genuine difference maker. The huge holidays. Excellent job security. Working alongside friendly, enthusiastic children each day. Dig a little deeper though and the sad truth starts to present itself.
There aren’t enough teachers joining the profession and even if they do, they don’t hang around very long. In fact, figures from the Department for Education shows of all the teachers who joined the profession in 2011, only 69% were still teaching five years later. As sad as these statistics are, there are things being done to address it.
One of the biggest problems within teaching is workload. If I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase ‘workload balance’ during my career, I’d have enough in the bank to retire and move to the Bahamas. Sadly, mostly for me, that isn’t the case so I will just have to keep plugging away in the classroom. No problem though, as my hope is, this blog will detail ways you can manage your workload, alongside making the most of a job that can be the most rewarding, uplifting and inspiring profession that exists. There are a lot of myths surrounding teaching, and unfortunately, most of these revolve around workload.
Take a look at a school’s marking policy and it may look more like a foreign language than a meaningful assessment tool. Senior Leadership Teams may justify the endless list of mark making as a consequence of Ofsted and the inspection culture.
The secret is, that’s not the case. Oh, and don’t take my word for it, this is what Ofsted’s Inspection Handbook says:
“Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy.”
So, Ofsted are not looking for a certain type of feedback. They are not looking for loads of writing. They are not even looking for marking to have been carried out every single day.
“Well, James. That’s all very good but what about the government.” I hear you cry. “They will come in and tell us that we aren’t working hard enough.” Let’s have a look at the most recent review carried out into teacher workload. This is a review set up by the government themselves. Here are a couple of extracts:
“The quantity of feedback should not be confused with the quality. The quality of the feedback, however given, will be seen in how a pupil is able to tackle subsequent work.”
“We recommend that all marking should be meaningful, manageable and motivating. This should be the perspective adopted by all engaged in education, from classroom teachers to the Department for Education (DfE).”
The crux of the matter is the final quote. All marking should be ‘meaningful, manageable and motivating’. If you are sat, staring at the pile of 30 books looming over you like the world’s most boring game of Jenga, then ask yourself that question. Is what I’m about to write going to be meaningful. If the answer is yes, then spend the time marking it and extending children’s learning. If it’s not, then don’t do it!
The important point for an NQT to keep in mind is it’s well worth doing your homework too. It is far better for all parties concerned if a new employee has done their research on a school and read the marking policy to see if it’s something that fits in with their philosophy. Trainees are far better off not having a job in March and waiting for the right one to come along, then jumping at the first opportunity that presents itself and then leaving the profession after three years because they burn out.
Of course, there are lots of things that can cause you to be tired at the end of a school day. So many in fact, that I don’t have the space or time to list them on this blog. However, things like dealing with negative behaviour or planning an engaging fronted adverbial lesson are clearly worth the effort and are meaningful. The main way to reduce your workload in the blink of an eye is to cut the stuff you are doing ‘because you have to’.
Ten years ago, it was an accepted myth that marking was about quantity not quality. Things are changing and very much for the better. Trainees and NQT’s are the people with the power to change the status quo.
Make sure that when you embark on your amazing teaching career, you are questioning everything you do by asking, ‘what’s the impact?’ If you can do that, you will eliminate a lot of practice that is based around fear or myth and give yourself the best chance of managing your marking workload, giving you a long-lasting career.
James Coleman is a Cohort Leader at the Anton Andover Alliance teaching training facility. He trained and taught in Inner London schools, as well as supporting the Institute of Education, before moving to the AAA. Follow the Alliance on twitter @antonandoverTSA or visit their website
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