Tag Archives: planning

Let’s Talk about Workload by @Mroberts90Matt

The workload issue is not going anywhere, anytime soon. In a time where edu-Twitter is cycling with debates around all sorts of philosophies and facets of education, one thing rings throughout most of the profession – there is one elephant that looms largest and that is the unsustainable amount of workload in the teaching profession. Wellbeing is becoming increasingly higher on the agenda for the best leadership teams and it is a concern for even some outside of the profession. A number of parents have commented on how they are aware of how hard I and other teachers work for their children and they really appreciate it.

This issue has risen again in a recent report detailing how many young teachers are planning their way out of the profession. A recent survey from the NUT suggest that 45% of young, recently-qualified teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years. I remember watching a report about a month ago on the same topic and the DfE’s response was to say they are working on recruiting more quality candidates into the profession. Whilst that is important, surely more focus needs to be put on making the profession more attractive? What is the point in recruiting more teachers if more then leave the other way?

There does not seem to be a clear-cut answer coming over the near horizon – but we have each other! Twitter, blogs, bottom-up CPD are providing a real way forward for teachers to look outside their school setting and recognise the strength around them. I am a much more positive practitioner because of the interactions. So, I want to take this brief opportunity to share some tips and ideas to beat the workload woes. I may not be the perfect teacher but I feel I do have some ideas on how teachers can take those small short-cuts that don’t impact on their teaching and learning (and sometimes enhance them). However, don’t just listen to me – dozens of other excellent professionals have spoken out against this workload crisis. I am very grateful for their contributions and I hope to include as many as possible. Hopefully this will help someone out there free some time for themselves. Please share this valuable list!

Before I even embark on this list – one very important point to remember is that whilst there are a number of tasks for teachers to do and it is a high-demand profession, workload is in our control mainly. Often we are the ones who place too much on ourselves. @bekblayton and @thatboycanteach put it very well when they reminded us all that we must remember that overcoming workload woes is not a pipe dream – it is possible. We need to adjust bad time management and prioritisation habits to help us do it!

1. Learn to Magpie and do it effectively
This was my first thought – massive amounts of time can be lost with teachers getting that resource exactly  perfect, with a nice border and then laminating that piece for the display. Just get the content challenging and correct, get it copied then done! Move on!
@Mrs_D_H – accept that good enough is good enough
@blondebonce – also says to not laminate 😉
@mccaffery81 – Shared a great idea which a typical example of needing to magpie from other professionals – phonicstracker.com – look into it, use it!

2. Find your Marking Mojo
@MisterMahon – Self and peer assess – it identifies misconceptions just as effectively, if not more so
@kvnmcl – Do NOT take marking home
@MrCartwright26 – Get some marking done in the lesson whilst supporting children
@primary_newbie – also says to mark in class – making use of self and peer assessment
@Wolvespps – Uses a marking code when marking. Assigns a number for each target in writing then has children write them – I do exactly the same for comments in all subjects

@hbudders – Agrees once again with marking in the lesson and give instant feedback, along with @emmaholts
@kat_luc01 – Warns against marking criteria not involved in the focus of the lesson. Extra areas of focus in marking can eat into precious time
@redgierob – Don’t be conned into marking every piece of work!

3. Plan for Pupils, not Procedure
@JoHale3 – plan daily, you should not have to plan the whole week if you do not know how they will do!
@HeyMissPrice – do not plan every lesson, do what is necessary
@RobertsNiomi – reduce weekly planning to a sheet of A4

4. Learn to do the jobs that need doing…and little else
@thomasandrews88 – do what needs to be done for tomorrow, then stop
@dave_foley_1990 – do the stuff you are asked to do, don’t do more than you need to
@bekblayton – set a finish time and when you reach it STOP!
@MrWalkerKPPS – look into instant displays – washing lines, working walls are as effective

5. Go with your gut!
@NorthDevonTeach – self-reflect but do not do so too much, will increase workload
@MrsR451 – Ask the question – will this help learning? If not then don’t do it – if it is required then do it minimally!

6. Plan Time Carefully
@challis_luce8 – Get work done on Friday so you have Monday prepared already
@mrsmacwilson – Plan at least one day a week to go home earlier with no marking
@mr_k3ys – Work smarter (not harder) – set time limit and challenge self to stick to it
@Mr_Beetroot – Used a work logging app (he suggested WorkLog) for 2 weeks, analysed what he lost a lot of time doing, then cut that down.

Special mention from @HeyMissPrice! After having read these suggestions, you will notice that many of them require understanding and acceptance from a caring SLT. If an SLT insist on convoluted systems of marking, require lesson plans handed in often and certain jobs doing that are really not required (particularly being stated that “it’s for Ofsted) then @HeyMissPrice says be brave and ask why those things are necessarily done that way if it’s impact on teaching and learning is minimal.

Please do take a look at the great suggestions – as you see, they all seem to fall under 6 categories. These are the areas that teachers can lose a lot of time accomplishing tasks but that they can have control over how much time these jobs take. The suggestions above are key – share them and add any of your own to help alleviate the stress and workload on fellow teachers.


Set ‘Em Up! by @Mroberts90Matt

Well, was able to finally sit with the other teacher in my year group today and get some planning done! Was a great relief, partly because it was good to get something down on paper and partly because we got along so well! As stated before in my post on collaboration, I think this working relationship will be key to, quite frankly, my sanity and happiness in my NQT year!

One discussion point we had was group setting in English and Maths. The school’s policy is to group children by ability in these areas. An idea was generated for Maths. In my final placement, I had seen an interesting trend. I was teaching the lowest ability across a Year 3-6 band in a 1 form entry school. Thus, my class were about 60% Year 3s, 30% Year 4s and 10% Year 5s. I couldn’t help feel there were a number of issues with this:

1.Children’s self esteem
How would you feel if you were one of those Year 5 children in a class of children who would be 2 years younger than you? It would be a serious barrier to a child’s learning if they were made to feel that inferior that they were sent 2 years below most of their peers.
On the opposite side, there were a couple of Year 4s in the highest ability class with mainly Year 6s. There are serious fundamental issues here as well as self-esteem. Complacency may creep in. If those children are working at the level of Year 6s, why put effort in until they are Year 6? However, the more serious problem I think is the problem of knowledge and understanding. Children’s learning is scaffolded, principle building upon principle. How can this occur when a big chunk of content is skipped? Those Year 4 children would need to develop their understanding in more basic areas of Maths before they step up to more advanced concepts.

2. Logistics
Schools are busy places. If a school is not busy it is not doing something right. This can be to the detriment of learning occasionally but that is the natural way of the institutions. On top of that, sung the need to move children across 4 classrooms for one lesson adds to that. What if one year group is on a trip. Those children miss an ongoing lesson of input and the absent class teacher can’t teach their pupils so those children are left hovering in a session that isn’t suited to their ability. It can just get messy, but this can be avoided I suppose. Ofsted (2000) even found timetabling when setting groups in subjects to be an issue, and as Ofsted say it, it must be true…(insert cheeky wink)

3. Mathematical Concepts
This, to me, was the biggest sticking point. When I received the Maths group list, I noticed that the children were grouped using an overview Maths level given at an end of year assessment. So, here before me were children labeled with a best fit level. The first concept I had to cover was Shape. Some children excelled far beyond what I expected from the level given me, others struggled. Later, we moved to Number. Different children excelled. Others, some of whom had excelled in Shape, struggled with the Number learning activities. An issue started to materialise – this general level wasn’t sufficient to make informed decisions in planning children’s learning, which is one of the points of setting in groups.

As we discussed this, we came to a joint decision… Our aim is to still group by ability, however, do so by area of Maths rather than a general Maths assessment. So Number, Calculations, Shape, Measure etc. will be preceded by a short assessment which, alongside previous data, will form our groups for each concept area. I think our biggest challenge will, again, be logistics. For example, where is my book? I can see that happening a lot – but with some good planning hopefully we’ll see some results. It should, however, overcome some of the regular challenges of setting, mainly the self-esteem (because generally most children have one area in Maths they are stronger in and will want to be challenged in more) and also the building of conceptual blocks for each individual child.

Maybe you feel strongly against setting in groups for certain subjects? I know in the past I have been cautious about considering setting in groups but this idea had ticked a lot of boxes for me. Do you group by ability? How does that work in your school/year group?

Ofsted, 2000. The National Numeracy Strategy: the first year. London: Ofsted.

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The Ideas Man

Picture this: you have led a Year 3 class on a unit of learning around myths and legends. At this stage they have not yet had the learning experience of changing a section of a story and so, as they have really engaged with this story you’ve scaffolded their knowledge on and they have understood, you figure now is as good a time as any to provide the opportunity to rewrite their own short ending.

Examples are modelled, story structure is highlighted and, as a class, you have identified the section of the story they will change. As all the children have shown they have a good understanding of the story, you decide to give all the children a chance to write their own, individual ending, providing TA support to those who need it.

In this class, there is a boy who, whilst they are quiet, they show great ability in Literacy. Their reading and composition of writing is excellent from previous assessments.

During the planning stage of the children’s endings, all the class are excitedly plotting how their characters are going to be at the end of the story. They have all planned or have almost planned the end. You circulate the room, whilst trying to teach and check all children are progressing, to find this quiet boy who had only done a small amount of their plan. You are surprised to find this and so your mind reaches the only obvious explanation – they’ve been doing something else. You ask them for a good explanation as to why they are much further behind than the rest of the class. This child looks back at you and sincerely states ‘I was just trying to think of my best ideas.’

What a response! What do you say to that? I’m sure many of you have come across this phenomenon before; a child who is trying to think for themselves in order to create their best piece if work.


Now, what’s interesting to consider here is this question – would you have accepted this response if a child who is known more for disrupting their fellow peers gave it to you? Maybe, maybe not.
As a trainee teacher, I couldn’t help but feel aware that I needed to show progression from the lesson. Was it a good thing that the child wanted to think of his best ideas? Surely! But could those good ideas be assessed if not recorded in some way?

Moving Forward

In future it’ll be important to consider other ways the children’s progress can be assessed other than by means of a written format. I was told in this same placement that I was required to have evidence of every lesson I taught in the children’s books. In some ways I felt this was limiting in my practice as I would always need to set time aside for a statement to be written in their books or some sort of small activity that might not flow as well in the lesson. In my own practice I will need to consider how I will ensure progression will be achieved, evidenced in an effective way.

Easier said than done I’m sure, but it will be an ongoing journey.

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