Wellbeing and Reducing Teacher Workload December 2018 By Christalla Jamil
What prompted me to take action?
I took on the headship of my school in the May 2013. A few weeks after we had an Ofsted monitoring visit resulting in a ‘requires improvement’ grade. Pressure was on to get to ‘good’ in a set framework of time. We achieved ‘good’ in 2015 and also had a couple of outstanding areas. It was now time for me to look at reducing teacher workload with a renewed energy to impact on wellbeing.
I began to realise that in order to meet the additional pressures I was forcing on my staff, linked to our marking and feedback policy in 2015, the only thing to help them manage, was to provide additional time for staff to cope. Since then, we have frequently reviewed the policy and the current streamlined version is no longer called a marking and feedback policy; it is just a feedback policy.
Our feedback policy has been scaled down and the word marking has been completely eradicated. Please see Appendix 1.
Reviewing Release Time
In addition to two sessions of PPA time, my staff receive an extra non contact session every week. This has further developed into releasing them every half term for one and a half days. These days could be taken in school or not, as log as the agreed areas are met. The release is regardless of pay scales and TLRs. Further release is also given if it is required and needs to be justified.
Ensuring the additional sessions of release time, for all teaching staff per week, was not easy. It came with a cost and a great deal of thinking outside the box ideas. I employ a music specialist and a PE specialist to help. We train post- graduates who have worked with us as learning assistants. They are also able to cover some lessons as a part of their School Direct training. Learning assistants have received CPD and have been promoted to HLTAs. Quality CPD for all staff has been pivotal to the success of managing release time. With more hours to plan and assess, teachers can more thoughtfully adapt their lessons to meet the individual needs of their pupils. They can more carefully reflect on their impact. They can have longer, more meaningful conversations with colleagues.
Planning has also changed significantly and is an area we continue to focus on. We promote block planning as opposed to daily planning. We have invested in a maths approach called Inspire Maths that has significantly reduced planning because it is already done; all my staff need to do is lightly adapt it. Again, CPD has been key to staff truly understanding how Singapore maths works. Foundation subjects are based around Chris Quigley’s Essentials scheme, again eliminating a huge amount of planning and also using the Milestones to aid assessment.
This is another area that we have adapted to meet the needs of our staff and directly links to our Raising Achievement Plan (RAP). Unnecessary meetings do not exist. We have jointly agreed to have every autumn 2, spring 2 and summer 2 a free staff meeting dedicated to assessments allowing staff to update our tracker. MLTs usually meet twice every half term but this can change according to need and CPD. We continue to evaluate and review this to ensure need meets time allocated.
Influences and Evidence
Influenced by the work of the Learning First group (Twitter) and Alison Peacock’s book, Assessment for Learning Without Limits, I have eradicated ability grouping across the school. I felt that if mixed ability teaching was to be successful, then my staff needed time to devote to planning not only feedback.
We are on a journey to becoming a 1:1 ipad school. Currently we are a 3:1 ipad school across all year groups. Each teacher has an ipad. A considerable amount of planning to invest in this way of teaching, learning an assessment has been necessary (and CPD of course). We hand picked a selection of apps, 3 initially and added another 3 more recently. Apps such as Showbie and Explain Everything have released my staff from the shackles of ‘marking’ and have taken them to the ‘freedoms’ of live feedback as well as providing creative ways to assess learning using, for example, apps such as Book Creator. Along with Google Apps and Google Drive we are quickly reducing the time allocated to planning, feedback and assessment, by allowing technology to be another strategy for teachers to select as a tool to not only move learning on but simultaneously reduce teacher workload.
I feel quality assurance in schools is too reliant on top-down procedures that have a negative impact on teacher wellbeing. Part of my CPD last year was taking part on a course called ‘Leading Beyond One School’ run by the Southwark Teaching Alliance. Here I met Liz Robinson from Surrey Square School, who agreed that monitoring and accountability were main areas that had a negative impact on teaching.
We have since moved away from the traditional model of monitoring for quality assurance and have adapted Surrey Square’s Flip self assessment into our Professional Learning Record (PLR) in order to get the balance right. We have now redesigned our approach, abandoning top-down “monitoring” and creating a bottom-up, self-evaluating “quality assurance” model. Again we needed to invest in CPD so that all staff fully understood what excellence looks like.
Investing in our staff in this manner has not only empowered them, but has illustrated the mutual trust we have each other thus supporting their wellbeing. Teachers self assess using an agreed format linked to teacher standards and other areas associated with teaching and learning by colour coding an agreed grid. They must then provide the evidence to support their judgements. The professional dialogue this has now provided is overwhelmingly positive and has allowed us to continue to review and evaluate practice to bring about improvements to learning for all our pupils. We have seen a marked change in both the efficacy and effect of quality assurance. We find that teachers are now highly attuned to their own practice and make very accurate assessments of their own strengths, as well as the things they need to work on. Please see appendix 2.
The outcomes. How did I know my approach was working? How has it affected teacher workload?
Allowing more time out of class and by eradicating lesson planning in its traditional form, the quality of learning and teaching in my school has gone up. It is definitely the case of fewer things, done in greater depth. By achieving this, the analysis of work pupils now produce, gives teachers the opportunity to make our Eastfield curriculum, a bespoke curriculum that meets the needs of my children, and the pedagogy that underpins this more connected. For the first time since I took on headship the Key Stage 2 results for May 2018 were above national results and our progress measures were significantly above national too. We are in the top 6% of schools nationwide for progress. This is indeed a huge achievement for Eastfield. We will never take our foot of the pedal and must work more effectively to increase attainment in EYFS and KS1. Yet we are a school that never sleeps and we will get there.
Sandwell and A Place 2 Be
We are currently undergoing an audit to achieve The Sandwell Well-being Charter Mark. It is too early to evidence impact yet but I will share the outcomes at the end of this academic year. The main reason for taking part in this is to not only clearly define social, emotional and mental heath but to also ensure our provision at Eastfield Primary School supports these areas and enlists early intervention to enable all learners and members of our community to thrive.
Having staff on site from a Place 2 Be, who work tirelessly to benefit our community, means that children, staff and parents/ carers are able to meet with counsellors who help us all manage life, and the challenges it may bring, effectively.
Evidence from my staff perspective
A recent staff survey has revealed exactly what my teachers feel about our journey and our outcomes towards reducing teacher workload and making their jobs more manageable:
Additional time out of class allows me to focus on my pupils’ needs, chat to my year group colleagues and leaders and devote more time to planning and assessment.
Inspire maths is much easier, supports my subject knowledge and fits in well with our unit planning.
Finding a balance with marking has helped me, as have the additional release times.
The elimination of lesson observation, additional time out of class and looking at work together and self evaluate our performance has reduced workload and reduced stress at those times too.
The use of technology and less pressure on summative marking/ feedback has reduced my stress levels. Extra time out of class helps me to manage my workload more effectively.
Eastfield Primary School_ Appendix 1
Feedback Policy November 2018
Aims of this document:
- To clarify the purposes of feedback in school.
- To outline appropriate approaches and methods to feedback.
This policy must be:
- consistently applied by all staff;
- productive in its outcomes.
What is feedback?
Feedback is an important form of communication between the teacher and pupil, through:
- written comments and / or a code to make improvement;
- verbal discussion between an adult or child, or a discussion between children;
- combination of both verbal and written comments (to include the use of technology where appropriate).
Reasons for feedback:
- to recognise, encourage and reward effort and achievement and celebrate success;
- to provide dialogue between teacher and child and provide appropriate feedback about strengths and areas to improve in their work;
- to improve a child’s confidence in reviewing their own work and setting future targets;
- to indicate how a piece of work could be corrected or improved;
- to identify pupils who need additional support / more challenging work;
- to develop quality through systematic feedback which is acted upon by the child;
- to aid curriculum planning, teaching and learning.
How do we provide feedback? Whole school approach
To achieve a whole school approach, feedback methods are agreed and should be:
- consistent across phases;
- developmental across the age range.
The nature of feedback
- Comments may be oral or written (to include the use of technology), formal or informal.
- Comments may be given on an individual, group or class basis.
Feedback methods / classroom practice:
- Pupil review: closed exercises may be reviewed by going through them together while children indicate success and correct errors, mistakes or incorrect answers;
- Focused Feedback: where written feedback is provided, time will be built into lessons for children to reflect on the feedback and to respond to it. This may be the whole or a section of the work – if a section is marked this will be indicated by a ‘highlighted box’. The size of the highlighted box is discretionary depending on aptitude and confidence of the pupil.
- Find and fix: adults inform pupils they have several answers incorrect and provide time for them to find and correct their mistakes;
- Highlighting: pupils use coloured pens/ pencils to highlight their work where they have shown evidence of skills according the requirements of the lesson;
- Margin Improvements: annotation in the margin for non-negotiables using codes;
- Live Feedback: immediate feedback which is diagnostic identifying specific areas to improve;
- 1. Written feedback may be given when deemed appropriate by the teacher, but this is not an expectation.
Success and improvement model:
- An improvement suggestion is written / asked for by the teacher to help the child know how to make the specific improvement.
- Classroom time is given for the children to act upon the improvement suggestion; the improvement may be written or oral.
There are 3 main types of written improvement prompt:
- The reminder prompt is simply a reiteration of the learning intention.
- The scaffolded prompt involves the teacher deciding what she would like the child to write, then finding a way of handing it back to the child.
- The example prompt models a choice of possible improvements but asks the child for an idea of his or her own.
It is inevitable and desirable that children make mistakes and we acknowledge that this is an important element of learning. It is the teacher’s role to be sensitive towards mistakes and to provide feedback in an appropriate way. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that children feel confident about making mistakes as well as working to achieve a quality of work which they can, as individuals, be proud of. This quality may relate to presentation, effort, original thought, tenacity and accuracy.
Appendix 1 Feedback codes:
Sp spelling error
Gr grammar error
P punctuation missing or error
// new paragraph needed
^ word needed / inserted by pupil
? Clarification of meaning needed
full stop symbol
finger space symbol
© capital letter
✓✓ next to the best parts of the pupils’ work
✓C where an error has been corrected
Eastfield’s Professional Learning Record