December 2014

The know zone

  • Number lessons
    ASCL’s new training DVD aims to give people a deeper understanding of budgets and balance sheets and so help avoid clashes over spending, says Val Andrew. More
  • A window on work
    Karleen Dowden offers five ways that schools and colleges can bring students together with employers to gain insights into the working world. More
  • To grade or not to grade?
    Tony Thornley shares his insights into what an outstanding school looks like and why best practice demands more than ticking Ofsted’s boxes. More
  • Maximise the benefits
    Are you and your staff getting the most out of continuing professional development (CPD)? More
  • ASCL PD events
    ASCL PD runs a number of CPD courses to help school and college leaders motivate their staff. More
  • Last word
    No one in their right mind would join a club and sign up to its regulations and then claim that the rules don’t actually apply to them, would they? So why do some people think that instructions issued by schools can be treated in such a cavalier fashion? More
  • Stronger together
    Exploring how one charity believes it’s possible to rebuild the lives of both bereaved pupils and schools. More
  • Unbalanced view?
    Workload is becoming an increasingly serious problem in schools and colleges. What is your view on this important issue – do you have a healthy work-life balance? Is an increasing workload something that is affecting you and your staff? Here ASCL members share their thoughts. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    More than half of ASCL members are now in academies and many are from independent schools – this month, the hotline has taken several calls from members in these sectors. Below are just a few of the questions our hotline staff have answered, although clearly in the answers there are messages for all members regardless of sector. More
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Workload is becoming an increasingly serious problem in schools and colleges. What is your view on this important issue – do you have a healthy work-life balance? Is an increasing workload something that is affecting you and your staff? Here ASCL members share their thoughts.

Unbalanced view?

External pressures

My school has experienced much turmoil with many internal changes. These have been for the better for the most important people in education, the great pupils. As headteacher, I have control over the changes, the speed of the changes and understand the need for a clear rationale.

However, external changes are very different. Many changes (some good, others that have no real benefit) are often presented in an ad hoc manner, have no clear rationale and have time frames that are wholly unreasonable. This ‘external’ pressure has a massive knock-on effect to teachers who are committed, highly professional and work very hard. I often see teachers at 7am (and earlier) in school and they leave well after 6pm. They are young now and can cope, but not in the longer term, as burn-out is the inevitable consequence. Long hours, constant changes and ‘constant teacher bashing’ is perceived as the ‘norm’. If this continues, ‘outstanding’ teachers will become increasingly disillusioned. My staff are very professional and simple measures, such as a national acknowledgement that they do a good job under very tough conditions, would be a great start!

Sheldon Logue

Headteacher at St Damian’s RC Science College in Lancashire

Achieve a happy work-life balance

After 40 years in teaching and being a SHA/ASCL member for more than half of that time, I have found a far better work-life balance this academic year by retiring from headship and beginning supply teaching – what I came into the profession for. I have to confess to no marking and only some preparation but I am thoroughly enjoying teaching young people again – I can, at the age of 61, thoroughly recommend it!

Ken Baines

Supply Teacher in Kent and a retired Headteacher

Set minimum non-contract time

The most efficient, if not the cheapest, way to reduce teacher workload would be to set a minimum 20 per cent non-contact time agreement. This could be enshrined in the school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD) to ensure that all schools follow this model and it would certainly allow teachers more time to complete their core tasks. The large obstacle to this is that it would increase costs and would therefore require us to have politicians willing to accept that you get what you pay for. All other measures really are futile, as they only shift workload around rather than reduce it because the solution is to have more trained staff.

John Connolly

Assistant Principal at Ounsdale High School in Staffordshire

Provide time management training

I think it is a mistake for the Secretary of State to become involved in the issue of workload.

Workload is such a difficult issue to measure precisely. I have often found in discussions with colleagues complaining of workload issues that when you drill down deeper they actually are struggling with time management, which is a different issue.

In no way am I seeking to minimise the pressures that everyone in education in the UK faces; the pressures are real, and I feel them every day of my working life. No doubt there are many colleagues up and down the country for whom the pressures often feel, and often are, overwhelming.

However, I do believe that many teachers and leaders could become more skilled in time management, and this would enable them to deal better with the workload they face. Rarely, however, do schools help teachers with this, and perhaps this is the issue where attention should be focused.

Michael Hartland

Assistant Headteacher at Wimbledon College in London

Introduce Independent Learning Tasks

I was involved as a school head in the previous (1980s) push on school workload. One of the biggest changes I made then, which several other schools have taken and used, was introducing Independent Learning Tasks rather than just subject-driven homework. This meant:

  • home learning was planned over a set period and not every week
  • we controlled homework well for students
  • the quality was good and better than traditional homework
  • staff marking was reduced, as was the stress and time in collecting in homework or not

At the time the then DfES [Department for Education and Skills] was very interested in my work and this project as a reduction in workload and raising attainment at the same time. Shame it was never taken as policy.

Peter Kingham

Principal at Ash Green School in Coventry