Workload, wellbeing and retention

…make education go round

Research carried out by The Guardian in March this year found that nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years.

Similarly, figures revealed by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) show that the numbers of those recruited onto Initial Teacher Training between 2010/11 and 2014/15 dropped by almost 14 per cent. Then for the third year in a row, in 2015/2016, the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) target for recruitment failed to be achieved.

To say we are in the midst of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis seems somewhat of an understatement. The statistics are staggering; this is a very real problem, and one that needs to be addressed immediately.

With an overwhelming number of teachers citing ‘unmanageable workload’ as one of the main reasons for resigning, it begs the question: what can we do to make their lives easier and improve their wellbeing, so that we retain the very best talent in a profession that so desperately needs it?

One of the easiest, and most cost-effective ways to help reduce teachers’ workloads is by utilising a resource that, in many cases, is already at their fingertips: technology! To quote educator John Roberts:

“Imagine a world where, as a teacher, your register is automatically taken, learning is adapted to the individual needs of classes, formative and summative marking is collated automatically then calculated and reported to you, the behaviour and attainment trends of your classes are available in real time, pastoral issues are automatically reported, all while aggregated research analysis improves our understanding of learning. This is not beyond possibility; this should be our understanding of learning.”

John certainly has a point, because there are already a number of tools that that help automate the business of running a school and provide data in real-time.

On the other side of this, of course, teachers can sometimes find themselves inhibited by outdated IT systems and as a result do not get the most out of what technology can offer.

However, now that cloud-based management information systems (MIS) are available, administrative tasks can be completed far more efficiently and are less time-consuming than ever. With access to the school from anywhere, at any time, staff can be more productive, which has a knock on effect on morale. While many schools are reaping the rewards and are already fully engaged in cloud computing, many are still not fully aware of how they could benefit. Sometimes we see resistance from certain members of staff in schools because they see it as a threat. The reality is that it can be a way of releasing them from low-value tasks such as resetting passwords, enabling them to focus on higher-value activities like providing support to pupils and teachers with the adoption of more effective technologies to improve teaching and learning.

In addition to utilising technology, investing in continuing professional development (CPD) is key to ensuring that teachers are supported, and best placed to manage any challenges that arise within their roles or workloads as they happen. Research by The Teacher Development Trust shows that schools spend £12,000 on teachers in their first year of practice, compared to just £400 p.a. thereafter. Without effective and regular CPD, teachers may feel they’ve been set adrift on a vast sea where they have a diminishing chance of staying afloat.

Fortunately, however, progress is being made towards improving teacher wellbeing, but there is still scope for more.

We all have a responsibility to educate schools about the potential benefits of embedded technologies and work towards increased CPD opportunities, then we will certainly see a positive impact both on teachers’ performance and their longer term happiness in the profession. We must do whatever we can to ensure schools are to focus the maximum amount of time on what they do best: educate our children!