Stop shooting silver bullets and learn to trust our teachers again

The Guardian reports that teaching has always been a demanding job. Performing for five hours a day in front of a class is tiring, but add to that lesson preparation, marking, meetings and admin and most teachers clock up 55-60 hours a week – and have been doing so for decades.

But over the past 15 years, there has been one significant change. Today, teaching is no longer a private endeavour that takes place in a classroom. Now teachers are required to create a paper trail that proves learning has happened, for people who were not present in the room at the time.

Latest government figures show that teachers are spending, on average, an extra hour a day on work compared with a decade ago. According to Teacher Tapp, an app that polls teachers on their experiences, about 60% say they are unhappy with the balance between their professional and personal commitments. It’s making them feeling drained and exhausted.

With more than 20,000 schools now operating independently, owing to the government’s drive to turn the majority of schools into academies, trying to understand what has gone wrong and why the role of the teacher has changed is complicated.

While onerous, the increase in paperwork has had one important use in helping headteachers put their weakest staff through capabilities procedures. We all remember from our school days teachers whose inadequate teaching was left unchecked. I’m pleased the audit culture has helped remove them, but fear that in doing so, we’ve damaged the morale of teachers we love and value.

Just as it took multiple initiatives and institutions to increase teacher workload to current levels, it will take a plethora of initiatives to undo this mess. But there are things the government can do to ease the journey, for example looking at replacing “directed time” contracts (which set out the number of the hours a teacher can be asked to work over the academic year) with ones that specify teachers’ daily hours. The government could also introduce four-year lead times for curriculum and assessment reforms, as countries such as Singapore, Finland and Wales have. Ofsted could be required to monitor workload and teacher turnover, using readily available data such as the school workforce census.

School leaders need to be made aware that auditing teaching isn’t actually possible. The links between what they observe through these activities and the quality of learning is simply unproven. A headteacher cannot know what is going on in a classroom unless they are there. School leaders need to learn to live with this uncomfortable truth and stop asking for lesson plans, performing book scrutiny, reviewing marking and collecting tracking data. All of which means learning to trust teachers again.

Read the full article Stop shooting silver bullets and learn to trust our teachers again

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Comments

  1. Anonymous

    ‘While onerous, the increase in paperwork has had one important use in helping headteachers put their weakest staff through capabilities procedures.’

    The phrase ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ springs to mind.

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