In the fourth year (I think it was) of my deputy headship, I went on an away day with all the other members of the Senior Leadership Team. One of the things we did was to list recent initiatives introduced across the school, and to consider their impact. We realised, looking through this list, that although the medium/long term effect of these initiatives would be to improve the pupils’ experience and to make us more efficient and effective as a school, including in our use of time, in the SHORT term, generally, staff workload was increased. That pulled us up short.
I was reminded of this recently when I read Rodger Caseby’s (@rhcaseby) excellent post about carrying out a ‘workload impact analysis’ with each new strategy. I think it’s a brilliant idea to do this in every school. It would be great if the DfE always did this, too – consulting a sample of teachers and school leaders in the process.
The subject of workload can bring out the worst in us. I took part in an uncomfortable Guardian Teacher Network chat on the subject recently, and there was a lot of vitriol in the responses. It was the second time I’d done this, and the mood was definitely much darker. The #SLTchat hosted by Nicky Morgan on the subject in December, again, showed teachers’ frustration – David Rogers (@davidErogers) commented that it was a particularly “shouty and moany” #SLTchat I absolutely understand why this happens, and promise I’m not unsympathetic, but I do feel we have to get beyond the anger. We need to look at what IS within our control and do something about it. I’m sure we can – we don’t have to be simply victims. Some individuals, and some schools, manage workload more successfully than others. It must be possible to learn from them, but we have to be receptive and PREPARED to learn.
Yes – we need to do all in our power to communicate clearly when the demands imposed upon us are unreasonable or even unsustainable – with the government, and within our schools with heads and senior leaders. But we also need to accept some responsibility and recognise that we have choices. We don’t need to be simply reactive.
I write this recognising that it will make some readers cross! But I do think that, generally, we work as hard as we demand of ourselves. This post by Tom Sherrington (@teacherhead) made me thoughtful. How many of us find it so hard to press ‘reset’ – to leave things which are undone and move forward? And yet it is such sensible advice.
If we aren’t coping, we have to act. We have to move beyond the anger – communicate assertively, but, as far as possible, calmly and professionally. Do things differently. Don’t just get angry and frustrated. Take some control!
Photo credit: John Berry