The solution to the workload crisis? Stop teachers designing their own lessons

Tes asks, what would teachers be prepared to trade for a lower workload? That is, even if it is rarely asked in that way, the central question of English education policy right now. In the 30 years since the Education Reform Act laid the foundations for the current school system—autonomous schools, published assessment results, regular inspection—the workload of teachers has undoubtedly risen. At the same time, so have standards, and many people might agree that the additional work has paid off.

But now we have a problem: teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers – and fewer people with the appropriate qualifications, especially in some of our most important subjects such as maths and physics, are applying to join the profession. The most commonly identified cause of the impending teacher shortage is “workload”.

My new report, which Policy Exchange has published today, argues for a different solution. Instead of rolling back the clock on the methods of accountability that have helped improve our schools, I argue that teachers need more support, resources and training to help them teach the rigorous and demanding curriculum England guarantees its children.

I know, from my decade as a teacher, that many of my colleagues will instinctively dislike anything that takes from them the process of creating resources for their classes. Many will worry about “scripted lessons” and “automation” of teaching. But that is not my intention: no textbook will ever replace the significance of the relationship between teacher and pupil. It is precisely because of that fact that teachers should be making use of more externally produced and quality-assured teaching materials. Such things can be made effectively and efficiently, guaranteeing a coherent curriculum experience for young people, freeing teachers to focus on “the final foot”: the space between them and their students in the classroom, where their expertise is deployed in ensuring their pupils understand and retain the learning.

But I know teachers will be concerned by a loss of professional autonomy. To that I say “it need not be so”. The highly-respected teachers of Finland and Singapore are no less professional because of their regular utilisation of externally-created textbooks. To enhance the trust of teachers in England in what we are calling “coherent curriculum programmes”, my report suggests that government should not just commission a single set of resources for each subject, but should encourage a diversity of programmes, produced by respected institutions such as museums, learned societies and multi-academy trusts. Where schools are succeeding, teachers should continue to have the right to produce their own resources, but they should also have the choice not to, if they would rather deploy that time and effort elsewhere. That means increasing the supply of coherent curriculum programmes for them to choose from.

Read the full article The solution to the workload crisis? Stop teachers designing their own lessons

Can teachers cut back on producing their own resources? Could you? Or is creating resources an essential part of teaching for you?  Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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