Pens down, emails off please

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Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, recently announced the need for schools to get the balance of work right for teachers. To try and gain this perfect balance the Education Secretary believes schools need to ban emails and marking after working hours and at the weekend.

Nicky Morgan believes that by not expecting teachers to answer any emails or mark their pupils work after 5pm each day, could be a factor in solving the worst recruitment crisis Britain has experienced in 36 years.

A DFE spokesperson recently stated that “last year we launched the Workload Challenge – which received more than 44,000 responses. We recognise there is more work to do which is why the Department Of Education has set up three new working groups to look closely at the key areas of concern and to suggest ways to help teachers focus on what really matters”.

Teaching unions have continued to point out that the growing workload teachers have is partly to blame for putting people off becoming teacher, and not enough is being done to stop this even after the ‘Workload Challenge’. This response was backed up by the Education Secretary who recently said that teachers are currently spending too much of their time marking and responding to emails instead of focusing on teaching. The Education Secretary continued to say that crippling workloads have left teachers struggling to plan lessons and driven people away from joining the profession. This however is believed to be one of many factors causing people to be driven away from becoming teachers. The ATL teaching union recently claimed that four in ten teachers quit within a year of qualifying and joining the profession. This claim however has been proven incorrect by the Department of Education recent reports showed that 87% of teachers stay in the profession after their first year, with Nicky Morgan claiming that “unions don’t often tell the positive side of teaching”.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL stated that head teachers are not making up the fact teachers are leaving so soon after qualifying. “Nicky Morgan can deny there is a teaching recruitment crisis but the fact is that head teachers up and down the country can’t get teachers in the core subjects. Classes are being doubled up and teachers are teaching in subjects they aren’t fully trained to teach”.

But is Nicky Morgan’s new idea enough? How can Nicky Morgan expect teachers to stop emails and marking after 5pm and remain up to date? Is this really going to reduce the teacher’s workload at all? Will it just mean teachers prioritise their marking and emails done earlier leaving lesson planning to be done late into the night instead? Surely if Nicky Morgan wants to help reduce the workload, wouldn’t constant testing need be abolished to reduce the amount of marking itself? What do you think, how can the Education Secretary help reduce the workload and make the profession more desirable? Have your say…

8 thoughts on “Pens down, emails off please

  1. How can you be expected to mark positively the work of,all,the students you teach in a day with positive comments showing how to make the next steps in learning demonstrating clear progress before 5 o clock. On most nights teachers are still in important/useless (Choose your own adjective depending if you are SLT or not) meetings until 5 o clock.

    She realliy is out of touch

  2. Teaching is the most exciting job ever. (I mean exactly what I have written. No time for sarcasm.) Unfortunately the profession has been hijacked by various groups with agenda which are unclear to everyone else, including teachers. We really need to get back to basics and we will be overwhelmed by the numbers of people who would want to teach. The powers that be would be advised to appoint me to lead a task group whose mandate is to identify what needs to be done to resolve problems connected with teaching.
    The comment by Mike Leydon is fair but we also need to recognise and take advantage of the opening gambit by the Secretary of State.

  3. There is a saying “No matter how many times you way a pig, it’s still a goat”.

    Of course this isn’t a real saying (I made it up), but it illustrates neatly the fetish for gathering data for the sake of gathering data, that often can’t measure what needs to be measured in the first place.
    Schools, or rather their senior management teams, in the effort to become OFSTED proof, have made all kinds of diktats about marking, testing, assessment et cetera, and the frequency of such, because of the fear instilled into them by the likes of Gove, Wilshaw and other political weasels.

    In order for me to mark a class set of tests it takes 7 to 8 hours to be thorough, plus another hour or more to re – record that data in all the different formats required by my line managers and and other folk with big hats. Post sixteen marking takes about twice as long. I teach a real subject you see, science, not a “light weight” one like food tech where you can get away with telling the kids to design a pizza packaging and mark their “work” out of ten in 3 minutes flat. Not that I’m bitter.
    Sometimes, to be fair, I have to cut corners and it will only take five hours. Then I have to spend one, usually two lessons giving “feedback” on the test to the learners. In my last school (really my penultimate school, because the one I start in in September WILL be my last,) I was expected to test each class every module. With an average of 2.5 modules per term, per class this soon mounts up. I taught 3 lower school classes, 5 upper school classes, including 3 year 11 sets plus four A level classes. so 12 x 2.5 x 8 hours = 240 hours of marking tests. I haven’t even included “Mock papers” or homework or even the dreaded “ISA” All told, I estimate that I spent somewhere between a third and half of my 1295 hours per year in the mostly non productive task of marking. Add to this the 2.5 tests x 2 lessons of feedback per 6 terms and you get 30 lessons of LOST CURRICULUM TIME per class. This of course causes the trolls (I mean managers) to surface and criticise you that you are falling behind and won’t finish the course. The effect of this nonsense is to make some schools fairly unpleasant places to work. The current situation has a taint of insanity running right through it.

    All of this in a mostly pointless fear driven attempt to gather data to protect the backsides of managers who would sell me or any of my colleagues down the river if they thought for one moment that it would divert the “eye of Sauron” from their own practice in the time it would take to weigh a pig.

    For once, the secretary of state has suggested something sensible. Perhaps she will not become “Gove 2.0″ after all.

  4. At what point Mr Harman is it ok to belittle your fellow teachers.
    ” I teach a real subject you see, science, not a “light weight” one like food tech where you can get away with telling the kids to design a pizza packaging and mark their “work” out of ten in 3 minutes flat.”
    We’re all of in this together.

  5. I’ve come to teaching rather late having worked in forensics for 20 years. Certainly for new teachers the workload is immense. I regularly work past midnight planning lessons and still fall behind on my marking obligations. Last year I taught 11 classes averaging 20 pupils per class (more in top sets, fewer in bottom sets). 220 pupils in total. If I spend 5 minutes marking each book that equates to 18 hrs 20 mins and I am supposed to do this on a rolling 3 week programme. Sounds quite do-able. 1 hr per night for each week. Except this doesn’t take into account end of topic tests, homework, controlled assessments, mock exams and lesson planning nor the fact that meaningful marking often takes more than 5 mins per book. It also doesn’t take into account the routine admin most jobs have including parents evenings, report writing, extra curricular activities and I’m curriculum lead for my subject. I know that I’m not the only person to have described the academic year as disappearing down a tunnel in September from which you emerge blinking in the sunlight in July for the long, much needed and well deserved summer holiday! In the intervening time evenings and weekends are routinely given over to school work of one sort or another and friends are neglected. My last job was better paid and far less demanding!

  6. Wouldn’t it be a lovely to finish marking at 5pm … with no emails …
    In all my time in teaching I rarely got home before 5pm only to start marking/preparation … and I don’t think I was unusual. I don’t think I have ever managed less than a 60 hour week (sometimes much more) and working in holidays too.
    I just can’t see it happening without a huge rethink in how education occurs in this country along with a huge investment in technology to aid with marking/feedback/reporting. Of course innovations have been tried in the past, but have fallen short through lack of planning, consultation, time and training.
    As I have recently retired I can view from the sidelines and sympathise with all my colleagues and fellow teachers who will be taunted with the thought of teaching as being a ‘9 to 5′ job …

  7. I am writing in response to Marcus Harman…….I was horrified and upset by his inference that Food Technology is a lightweight subject.
    This school year I have taught approximately 350 pupils every week (15 classes including 2 x GCSE and 1 x Year 13). Every half term I was expected to enter data for each pupil and mark a minimum of 3 pieces of their work every half term. I was also expected to plan half termly programmes of learning for every class ( take note I am not a head of department at the moment, but on main scale. I did a stint of HOD for 15 years previously). In addition to this I had to organise a technician and a support teacher based in the department. Call this lightweight? On one week of a 2 week timetable, I had 2 non contact lessons…..oh yes, forgot to mention the 2 – 3 hours most nights planning, shopping and marking and the 7 hours over the weekend.

    Why have I kept this up for 31 years? I love the contact with the pupils and seeing them grow and develop in confidence and seeing the joy on their faces when they managed to create something they could take home and share with their family. I am extremely proud that I have helped to foster the love of food and food preparation amongst children I have taught since 1984 and in addition encourage them to consider healthy eating and nutrition in relation to themselves and their families …..a life skill, not lightweight.
    I have been made redundant now after 24 years in post …..my classes will now be taken by non – specialist teachers. Not to be beaten I am searching for my next post……in a non Academy school……

  8. What will happen to the work that teachers did after 5pm and at the weekends? Will it just disappear? How out of touch can someone be? Like one of the commentators above I came into teaching late after 20+ years in business. After hearing complaints about excessive workload before I started I naively thought that if I worked 8-6 everyday I wouldn’t have to work that much in the evenings/ weekends, how wrong I was. The biggest problem in my opinion is headteachers constantly misinterpreting what is required. They expect such ridiculous unnecessary detail, I was doing more record-keeping and analysis on 7-8 year olds than I did on the team of managers that I managed in my previous job! I offered my head an end-to-end review of the tasks we did daily, so that we could try to weed out what was no longer necessary and make room for the new work he was piling on us (assessment half-termly instead of termly, 3 x reports a year instead of one in the summer are just two examples), and even though I offered to do this in my own time, he was not interested. I resigned shortly after. Nicky Morgan has her head in the clouds and teachers are leaving in their droves.

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