There has been a lot in the press of late about teacher workload. It is a very real and difficult problem at the moment. The UK government are making the right sort of noises about it but I will remain quietly sceptical until there is a genuine recognition of the amount of hours that teachers currently put in and the knock on problem of staff retention and well being. As a small school, any changes in teaching staff has a huge impact on the school. Although in a good place at present, we have had problems retaining staff in the past, which made life rather difficult at times for my predecessor. Much of this could be put down to workload, especially in a small school where each teacher takes on many subject leader roles, as well as dealing with the large ability spread found when teaching mixed age classes.
Our focus of late has been to consider how we mark. What is meaningful marking and what feedback is of value to the children? We have very much shifted our mantra here in the last year to the clear understanding that if it doesn’t support the children’s learning, then why are we doing it? This sounds a simple perspective, but with all the pressures coming in from outside, harder than it seems. A good place to start for us was the EEF marking review, which can be found on their website. The main findings being to avoid acknowledgment marking (tick and flick), set targets, feedback verbally when you can and give children time to respond. It also talks about differentiate between a misunderstanding or a careless mistake e.g. missing full stops.
We are also looking to develop our curriculum and the structure of subject leadership at the school. The question is how can we continue monitoring effectively and raise standards, without overloading staff. It is this change and development that I feel will have the biggest impact on retaining staff and reducing workload in a small school, but more importantly than that, start to turn around the outcomes of the children in our care.