If you don't have time to read our new book on teacher workload, here's a summary

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06 September 2016 by Nansi Ellis
It’s just how it goes: a new book comes out about teacher workload, and you’d love to read it but you haven’t got the time.
Cover image from ATL's workload book

So let me summarise some key messages.

It’s true, a lot of additional workload comes from government and their crazy initiatives; some of it comes from your school leadership; but actually, (whisper it quietly) perhaps you’re also doing things you don’t need to do.

Are you spending your weekend searching for that ‘perfect’ video clip, when you’ve got one that worked fine before? Are you sitting at home planning your lessons when you know that your colleague has already taught this unit? It might feel important that your lessons are your own, but as Joe Pardoe says: everything you choose to do means you choose not to do something else. What will have the greatest impact on you and your pupils?

That’s why ATL’s workload campaign starts with #make1change. Choose something small – go home at 4pm one day a week. Stop reading your school email after 6pm. Use ATL’s workload tracker regularly. Do some baking. Yes, really – these are changes your colleagues have made! Julian Stanley’s chapter gives more ideas for changes that could alleviate pressure and stress.

Perhaps, when you make your change, you’ll realise that it would be even better if others, including SLT, made similar changes. There’s a chapter for that: Collette Bradford talks about how to identify key issues in your school, how to get teachers, support staff and school leaders together to plan joint activity.

Perhaps you identify marking as the place you’d like to start. There’s a resource for that, as well as for meetings and data. Marking was also one of the issues addressed by the government’s workload working groups, along with data management and lesson planning, and Mary Myatt explores those three workload challenges in greater depth.

As well as practical resources, there are reflections on changes made. Lee Card writes about deep changes to curriculum and assessment in his primary school; Judith Vaughan writes about a different way of curriculum planning in her secondary school – both with a close eye on workload; Robin Bevan answers questions about the processes he uses as a headteacher to monitor staff workload and to build a culture of trust and openness.

Toby French reflects on behaviour management; Heath Monk on making time for CPD; Emma Knights on the role of the governing board; Joe Pardoe on how trainee teachers could learn to manage and challenge workload. Each of these chapters ends with questions for reflection – how could you use the ideas to make further changes in your practice? But government also has a role to play.

Mary Bousted’s chapter is a stark reminder that a few workload reports going into schools won’t alleviate pressures from major changes to curriculum, assessment, exams and targets, changes that are imposed, at speed, and announced to the press with great fanfare as the way to get out of the mess that we’re in. As education professionals we have a responsibility to take a stand, and ATL’s workload campaign is about taking that message back to government too.

All of this takes time of course, and our workload isn’t getting any lighter. But as Heath Monk reminds us, workload is work that is imposed and that doesn’t seem to have intrinsic value. A lot of this book is actually about refocussing the time we have on the things that matter, rather than getting bogged down in busy-work. What can you stop doing, in order to focus on what’s more important?

Do you want to #make1change? Make time to read some books: start with this one!

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Workload and hours