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Do you want to be a hero or a villain in the workload saga?

Senior leadership teams tend to get the blame for teachers’ excessive workload – and often with good reason. But remember that SLT also have the power to ease the burden at the chalkface

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Senior leadership teams tend to get the blame for teachers’ excessive workload – and often with good reason. But remember that SLT also have the power to ease the burden at the chalkface

The blame for out-of-control workloads is often placed at the door of senior leadership, and I can see why. Triple-marking policies that involve four different highlighters, depending on what day of the week it is and what direction the wind is blowing; uber-detailed lesson plans that include a ton of information that nobody needs; assessment systems that mean tracking 30-plus objectives per term per child; and performance data targets that are plucked out of thin air and bear little to no resemblance to the actual children in the class.

The list goes on. All of these things are ultimately responsible for creating teacher workload, and all are under the control of the SLT.

But senior leaders can also be part of the solution. They are in a position to take a view across a school and, I think, can play a role in identifying workload issues before they take hold.

In a primary school, for example, you will often have multiple subject leaders working in their own little bubbles. With individual subject leaders all focused on leading and monitoring their subjects in isolation, the cumulative effects can sometimes cause an issue.

As teaching and learning leader, I think that one of my responsibilities is to have an overview of this.

Don't lose sight of the bigger picture

For instance, if one subject leader wants teachers to plan in a new way, which is quite different to the expectations for other subjects and will add to teacher workload, then it’s up to me to question the reasoning behind this and flag it up.

Equally, if everyone plans to, say, look at books in their subject at once, or do learning walks around the same time, this could be very negative in terms of workload. This is where forward-planning monitoring becomes vital.

In my experience, leading a subject can, initially at least, become a quest for gathering more evidence, more data and more knowledge about your subject. It is easy to lose sight of how your requests, combined with those of the other subject leaders, can amount to a lot of work for teachers.

We senior leaders can be guilty of this, too. But it is up to us to not lose sight of that bigger picture.

A significant part of a teacher’s workload may be down to SLT expectations, but senior leaders can also be workload champions. They can think about what staff are being asked to do as a whole, and step in where they see that things are becoming unmanageable.

Make sure you do this. Don’t let the blame for out-of-control workload fall at your door.

Claire Lotriet is assistant headteacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She tweets at @OhLottie

 

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