The pros and pitfalls of shared planning

Centralised resources are increasingly common in schools, but they bring potential problems as well as benefits, writes Suzanne Jabarian

Suzanne Jabarian

shared planning

There has been a shift in schools in recent years. 

Gone are the days of teachers planning schemes of work solely for their own classes, and gone are the days of teachers shielding their resources from prying eyes. 

On the contrary, more and more departments are moving towards a centralised – or shared – resources model, where schemes are jointly planned and shared between all.

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However, as with all approaches that are adopted widely, it is important to weigh up the potentials and pitfalls.

The upsides

Workload is reduced

Having a wide range of PowerPoint presentations or booklets readily available will result in teachers spending much less of their valuable time throughout the year on planning.

Quality control

There is greater potential for schemes of work to be of a high quality, especially if they have been collaboratively planned, discussed or vetted by others.

A more equitable approach

With shared resources, all pupils have access to the same content and they will learn the same skills, irrespective of which class they are in or which teacher they have. This is fairer and can help to establish a culture of high expectation.

Professional development

Teachers will gain invaluable insights into how others devise schemes of work, which will be particularly beneficial for newly qualified or inexperienced teachers.

The mere process of creating and pooling resources will result in teachers sharing their knowledge and expertise, as well as disseminating tried and tested strategies. This will help to develop teachers’ practice and will also foster departmental cohesion.

The pitfalls 

Lack of autonomy

If shared resources transition from being advised to prescribed, teachers are likely to feel frustrated. Teachers undoubtedly need the freedom to exercise their professional judgement; they need to be able to adapt resources and, indeed, the pace at which schemes of work are taught.

Old news

Let’s face it, some schemes of work can become outdated almost as soon as they are conjured up. Teachers need to be particularly mindful about the supporting resources they select, resisting the urge to incorporate trendy references or hooks.

Unnecessary strain

It is relatively easy to distribute planning for an entire year evenly and fairly across large departments, teachers within small departments may feel the undue strain of undertaking such an insurmountable task.

Teachers charged with planning for topics they do not teach is also likely to be burdensome.

Emphasis on compliance

In worst-case scenarios, centralised departmental resources may pave the way for criticism, especially if teachers’ coverage of centralised work is monitored closely or if teachers are expected to cover tasks within very rigid time frames.

Below-standard resources

Despite their best efforts, some teachers’ resources will simply not meet others’ standards. Strategies may not be evidence-informed, content coverage may be insufficient, or scaffolding might be non-existent. 

Whatever the gripe, teachers may end up wanting to adapt others’ resources. It’s integral that teachers feel able to communicate honestly and openly about the efficacy of schemes of work, without worrying about inadvertently denting someone’s pride.

Balance really is the key to an effective centralised resources system. If a degree of autonomy and flexibility is not only permitted but encouraged, centralised resources will greatly benefit teachers and pupils.

Suzanne Jabarian is an English teacher and lead practitioner at Olchfa school in Swansea. She tweets @SuzieJabarian


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