TEACHER WORKLOAD – the correspondence!
no responses

Hello dear colleagues and ex colleagues. Instead of my hysterical satirical blog, here is the sad and lonely History of the Failure of the Workload Challenge and my participation in it. Read how Nicky Morgan and I were like THAT; how the good intentions of the civil servants in the DFEE were undermined by politics; how we are today almost exactly where we started in 2014… 

 

NOTE: When reading apparently grovelling sweetness and willingness to engage etc, please forgive my attempt to use child psychology on the  Rulers of the Roost.

E-mail to to Nicky Morgan on her appointment 2014

Encouragement to read this: 16 years in business, 22 years in teaching in a single sex VA C of E comp and in an inner-city comprehensive serving one of the most deprived areas of London;  I have a consistent record of superb results, have received a Teacher’s Award, hit a 2 on the ALPS scale for my A2 group, an Enterprising Teacher Award etc etc etc. My attendance/punctuality is close to 100%. Therefore. Boast. Boast.Will retire soon.

1) The Financial Issue: Take all financial issues out of schools for example:

  1. a) Take the ridiculous burden of running a budget off Department Heads. All exercise books, textbooks etc can be ordered centrally within a school or a consortium of schools. A school bursar is a good idea. A department head is not a businessman/woman. He/she is a teacher. This way schools take advantage of economies of scale! – meaning the books, stationery etc are cheaper per unit when ordered in quantity. A person ordering centrally can make sure they get a good deal.  The absurdity of a Department Head finding money left in the budget in March spending it frantically on useless things to ensure he/she gets the same amount or more in the next financial year wouldn’t occur any more saving time and money. It’s simple.
  1. b) Take the burden of financial management away from Head Teachers and devolve it to either local authorities or the DFEE. Headteachers are teachers not CEOs. Let them manage teachers not a business. Where does this leave the Academy programme? Where indeed. I have seen three head teachers being terribly burdened by the responsibilities and constraints of finance, spending money on useless things, being left with insufficient money to retain good staff.

2) Assessment:

  1. a) Most schools are madly overburdened by people checking people who are checking people. If teachers achieve good results leave them alone to run their kingdoms. If they don’t, don’t! Which brings up
  1. b) OFSTED – obviously crying out for reform and simplification. Much of the burden on teachers arises from terror of OFSTED. And I do mean terror.

3) BTEC involves teachers in a massive overbearing mark load. Frankly the whole qualification is a Pearson Plot to maximise their income. BTEC has a limited value for some students but in many schools low ability students are forced into the qualification purely to make up the numbers in Sixth Form which has a financial benefit on their budgets. Bring in much higher requirements for students doing BTEC and cut by 1/3. Make up for this by true vocational qualifications in plumbing, plastering, bricklaying, computer programming, and the other areas in which we will need workers in the next decade.

4) Time:

  1. d) Useless activities such as the PDR process put teachers under massive pressure to meet targets, many of which are based on ridiculous ‘predicted grades’ which don’t take into account the extent to which pupils change from KS2 to KS5, the fact that they may have problems at home, are doing drugs or alcohol, have just broken up with their girlfriends…teachers are blamed for pupils’ poor performance! Which impacts on pay. Solution? Teachers whose students consistently under perform, new teachers, should indeed have to be monitored. Not ALL teachers. Leave experienced teachers with good results alone to run their kingdoms. A manager in my school said ‘I can’t give you special treatment’ – why not? Repetition: I have a consistent record of superb results, have received a Teacher’s Award, hit a 2 on the ALPS scale for my A2 group, an Enterprising Teacher Award etc etc etc. My attendance/punctuality is close to 100%. Therefore. Boast. Boast.

The assumption that teachers are skivers, moaners and work shy is simply not true. Ok, there may be 3% who are. The vast majority are committed, professional, dedicated, get all their joy from the success of their pupils. We are also massively stressed, vastly overburdened, many have become alcoholics, etc, and the truth of this is proven by the scary drop-out rate of new teachers.

SEE  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_X_and_Theory_Y  

Plenty more. Put a group of experienced teachers together in a Focus Group. Maybe made up of Teaching Award alumni (one of Pearson’s better activities, as sponsors). Include me. If the Conservatives win the next election prove to the electorate that you understand that good happy teachers = good happy pupils. One more goalpost move should do it. Then no more please for 5 years. The era of the Govation of schools based on Theory X needs to go. Theory Y will, with intelligent committed people, work far better for everyone concerned.

  1. a) Marking: The Teachers’ Conditions decree the number of hours which must be spent on X, Y and Z. But not useless exercise book marking (despite the ‘myth busting’ document -precisely what is meant by ‘Deep Marking’????) Out-of statutory hours marking is a massive burden with the constant moving of goalposts responsible for a massive amount of stress. I spend at least three days of every half term catching up and two weeks of the Summer break so don’t give me that ‘long holidays’ nonsense.
  1. b) Extracurricular activities: we all give our all and much more, running after school clubs, coursework catchup sessions, trips…
  1. c) Duties: As a result of a recent consultation at our school the absurdity of five teachers standing outside the school gates before and after school, three in the quad, eight in the playground etc has receded. I am sure there are many schools in which teachers do far too many duties, further cutting their time for marking etc.

Your sinseriously

Jon

Nicky replied:

17 Nov 2014

Dear Jon,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write in to the workload challenge and for being one of the first to respond. As you can see, your email has certainly been read and we are responding personally to the vast majority of emails we have received in the ‘workload.solutions’ inbox. It is clear from your response that you are passionate about teaching and improving life chances for your pupils. You have also very helpfully added your solutions to each identified problem: thank you. Can I reassure you that we value and appreciate the dedication, commitment, professionalism and hard work of all of our teachers who are delivering high-quality education to their pupils. We can understand that you feel angry about the amount of time you believe you spend in unnecessary tasks and we are sorry that you have such a heavy workload. This is exactly why we want to take action to help the situation and to enable you as a professional to be able to make decisions that will affect the outcomes for the children in our schools – our future.

The specific details you have given will help paint a picture of teacher workload across the country. The results will be considered by us and a new ‘Sector Challenge Panel’ made up of teachers and school leaders. This panel will help us to develop a programme of action which will be published early next year. We are committed to working with teachers to find solutions and share good practice to address unnecessary workload.  I can assure you that we will act on the findings from the ‘Workload Challenge’.

We would like to post some anonymised quotes and examples on the Workload Challenge website, making sure that no one person can be identified. We may decide to use some of your email. Please let us know if you would not like your words used in this way.

Thank you again for sending us your views,

Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education and David Laws, Minister of State for Schools

 

I REPLIED:

 9 Nov 2014

Dear Nicky

Well I am pleased it WAS read and this is not a token exercise. As I said, I would be happy to help in the process of reducing workload at any level. If you would like me to participate in the Panel, workload permitting, I’d be delighted.

I have now taken the opportunity to opt for semi-retirement which means I work three days. In school! I have, alas, discovered that it is impossible to do everything I have to do in the three days and will be working at least four. Help! It’s the youngsters, new entrants into the profession we need to think about. How do we make sure they don’t leave? I am currently also working as an Associate Lecturer at Middlesex University, working with PGCE students once a fortnight.(I forgot to mention I have been an in-school mentor for PGCE students for around 20 years) I happily took on this commitment when I went to three days. Not my best decision from a workload point of view. But they are so bright and bushy tailed, so keen to get into the profession and make a difference. Working with them is a great pleasure.

Make sure they’re still in it in five years time, please?

 

THEN:

6 Jan 2015

Dear John,

In your response to the recent workload challenge survey you indicated that you would like to continue your participation in the challenge.

We are convening two focus groups to consider suggestions for solutions to workload issues and as well as providing an opportunity for you to comment on the policy proposals currently being developed. We would like to invite you to one of these groups which are being held in:

Sheffield (DfE, St Paul’s Place) on Tuesday 20 January, 2-4pm

London (DfE, Sanctuary Buildings) on Wednesday 21 January 2-4pm

If you would like to be involved and you would be happy to work as part of a constructive, positive group, please reply to this email by the end of Monday 12 January at the latest, stating which group you would like to attend, or if either date and location is possible.

Please note we are inviting you in your own right rather than as a representative of a school, union or any other group. Please also let us know if you are not able, or do not wish, to attend.

If you accept, please also complete the attached information sheet and return it so that we have your full contact details. We will send out more details of the meeting once we have heard from you. We are able to pay for standard travel to the event and supply cover expenses (up to one day) if necessary.

There may also be further opportunities to be involved in developing solutions for workload issues in the future, and we will keep you informed of these as they come up.

Many thanks, and looking forward to hearing from you by Monday.

Kind regards

Philip

I said YEH! You betcha! And sent Nicky an email

21 Jan 2015

Dear Nicky

I am about to go to Sanctuary Blgs as part of the Focus Group, so thanks for the opportunity to contribute.

I took the day off school in order to look carefully through the documents and look at the approaches of other bodies inc Unions etc. I have also collated my own research from my school as well as contacts through Teacher Awards, the Union, colleagues and contacts in other schools etc. I have a huge amount to say and contribute – as have so many others – my concern is I may not be able to feed back an idea I have had, so I would like to share it with you in advance. There won’t be enough time this afternoon for everybody to have a say.

OFSTED is listed by everybody as a huge cause of stress and increase in workload. Part of the solution is to change their remit and conduct a root and branch reform, so that teachers do not regard an inspection as a hindrance and impediment to their teaching. Make a major part of their remit reporting on teacher motivation and workload. With follow-up visits scheduled for schools which don’t meet standards for managing workload effectively. They need to be seen as contributing to motivation, not the opposite as is currently the case. Their visit would include interviews with teachers, with HR  as well as the SLT and head teacher. The HR interview would require a good look at the leaving interview minutes. A key indicator would be staff turnover. A measure of Motivation can be devised and introduced. Maybe change the name of OFSTED, to get rid of the negative connotations. (How about OFIE Office of the Improvement of Education – no, too much like OFFY…which I suppose is fairly funny and friendly…)

Nicky, good performance arises out of high teacher motivation, low staff turnover, an effective and supportive management structure, simple appraisal and reporting procedures and marking in proportion with the requirements for enhancing learning.

The situation is desperate – on Monday I was lecturing PGCE students at Middlesex Uni and in my discussion with their course tutor he revealed that he has never, in all his years in his position, known such a decline in the number of graduates wanting to do the PGCE course. He was at a recruitment fair – in past years he didn’t stop talking to and explaining to prospective teachers. This year people who wanted to talk to him could be counted on the fingers of one finger.

The situation is desperate – teachers are falling over each other in their desperation to leave the profession.

The situation is desperate – no need to conduct any further surveys, there is a huge amount of data available, there just isn’t time for prevarication – It’s the kids who suffer.

Sadly, Mr G has side-swiped and smacked the profession across the face. Then, leaving everything in tatters, off he goes, and there you are. There are votes in fixing this. Mine, for one. …but you know all this….

If you’re in London at Sanctuary House pop in to the meeting and say hello. I presume you would have done this anyway. If not, happy to meet with you any time and help.

Love and kisses

Jon

12 Jan 2015

Hi Jon,

Thank you for letting us know, pleased that you can make it. I can confirm your place at the focus group in London on 21 January, and once we have finalised group numbers we will send round further information later this week.

Best wishes,

Philip

And then, finally, months later, at last, published in TES and all over the place, with gurning pictures of Nick Clegg (yes, his role in smacking students in the face is well known) and Nicky babe: The FINDINGS

See:

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/teacher-workload-challenge-your-a-glance-guide-final-recommendations

 

…aftershock!

8 Feb 2015

Dear Stephen and team

When I met all you wonderful people on the Focus Group at the DFE and read the draft documents I really believed here was a sincere attempt to tackle the problem. I’ve now looked at the recommendations and while they will help in the long term, there are no solutions presented for the day-to day stress created by the excessive workload which has caused the crisis in teacher motivation, the high staff turnover, the floods of people leaving the profession and the fall in recruitment of new teachers. We are in crisis for heaven’s sake. I thought that the DFE had finally recognised the need to take some action. I agreed with almost everything in the draft. The research was comprehensive and the analysis absolutely accurate.  I awaited the recommendations with an optimism I haven’t felt about my profession for years. And what came out of this excellent process?

  1. A) Minimum lead times for reforms – nothing new there, Nicky Morgan promised a moratorium on reforms when she took over – it’s the reforms we are implementing now that are driving us crazy.
  1. B) No changes in the OFSTED framework – that will help, but the real workload issue is the fear of an inspection and the hyper-preparation that takes place in every school with bizarre making audits, observations, masses of paperwork and data analysis.
  1. C) Engagement with Head Teachers – great stuff, but refer to the actual workload implications of the reforms and how they can be tackled holistically on the ground, in each school.
  1. D) Ofsted ‘reviewing clarification document’ – all very well but there is a massive variation between teams of inspectors in what they do and do not want to see. I believe firmly that many of them are unaware of the clarification document.
  1. E) Shorter inspections for good schools – great! But an inspection is an inspection and ANY inspection causes fear and paranoia amongst head teachers who will always require staff to over-prepare.
  1. F) Evidence base of good classroom practice – very helpful for some teachers but in some schools these resources will become prescriptive and will be rigidly enforced and teachers observed causing MORE workload and stress.

Am I to suspect that the dread hand of the politicians has  slammed down on any solutions that may show any level of compassion or sympathy for the plight of teachers?  Frankly, there are more votes in teacher-bashing than there are in supporting those professionals who are responsible for the happiness and success of our children and ultimately for the future of our country. An opportunity missed.

WHAT WE NEEDED: 

1:OFSTED reformed! With a requirement to measure teacher job-satisfaction and workload against agreed national criteria and recommend changes.

2: Schools to audit workload, identify where excessive marking and duplication and bureaucracy can be cut down. This needs to involve all staff and be the focus of CPD for at least six months.

3: Schools report back to the DFE on staff turnover with reasons based on exit interviews conducted by an external person(!) (Needs careful consideration…)

4: Trust the teachers! MOST of us are not workshy skivers with a confrontation-based mentality, we just want our students to do well and be happy, our local and national community to benefit. To do this we want to have the time to prepare and deliver excellent lessons, do marking that genuinely helps the pupils to progress, and to have time, with all this, to have a decent work-life balance. Trust the teachers! We take our greatest pleasure in the achievement of others. It’s the best job in the world. Don’t let us down.

Don’t let us down! If you do, you’re letting the children down. We need SMART targets for reducing workload right now. In every school. And a framework in which to enact them.

Love, kisses

Jon

Yeh yeh yeh….and that’s that folks. Little or no change. No sense. Nonsense. And since then, “all schools to become Academies” thank goodness, defeated by the Unions, and a furious electorate. Nicky went a bit crazy so was replaced by Ms Greening in the new May government. Will she be more amenable to the Real World? Time will tell. The next battle, of course is May’s idiot Grammar School initiative. More social engineering from the party who gave us Austerity, and the assault on the welfare state….

 

And so back to my Barking Blog: THIS time, no escape from the story of my becoming NUT Union Rep…going NUTs!

 

 

 

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