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'Sometimes it feels as if we spend more time on evidence production than on doing the job itself'

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One of the nicest things I have tucked away in my filing cabinet are three tatty folders from my children’s pre-school. Sometimes, when I am in the process of looking for something else, I stumble over them. A pause in my search ensues and I sit, entranced by the photographs and comments.

They must have taken ages, those folders – especially when you consider that they were written not just for my children but for the 20-odd other three- to four-year-olds in their class. And, while they are lovely things to look back on, when I look at the sheer number of pages, I think about the amount of paperwork we teachers must generate, in the name of Evidence For Ofsted, and I find myself pondering their value.

Much of what we do in school these days, it seems, is so that we have evidence should an inspector call. Sometimes it feels as if we spend more time on evidence production than on doing the job itself.

But if there’s anything to make us take stock, it is the children in our schools with SEND, the ones who need us the most. The time we spend on making the evidence look pretty is neither here nor there in terms of their progress. For them, it has taken up time that should have been spent thinking about whether what we were doing was making any difference.

If there’s one thing that every teacher knows about planning, it’s that it doesn’t take long before someone has thrown a spanner in the works and the whole lot comes crashing down. In the small world of intervention and SEND, it could be anything from a funny look to a disappearing pencil, from someone sitting in your chair to the discovery that a problem with reading was bigger than you first thought.

Provision maps and plans are all very well, but when it comes down to it, the reason we have them is so that we can establish whether what we are doing is working – not so that we can have a piece of paper to wave at an inspector or a member of the senior leadership team. It’s the people who matter, not the paperwork.

Filling in “My Plans” or “One Page Profiles”, or whatever name is used for short-term targets in your school is in danger of becoming an exercise in box ticking. As one of my friends is fond of saying, “meetings are not outcomes,” and neither is paperwork.

So how do you make sure that the targets you’ve set are meaningful, that the groups you’ve created work well, that the children are making progress, that you are making a difference? How do you know that your paperwork is removing a barrier, not creating one?

For that, you need to get old-fashioned, step away from the letters and numbers that dance across the computer screen and out into the classroom, up close and personal with the kids and their teachers.

Nancy Gedge is a teacher at Widden Primary School in Gloucester 
@NancyGedge

This is an article from the 1 April edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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