The #5MinWorkloadPlan has been devised to help teachers and leaders take back control of their workload and well-being. The best schools, teachers and leaders manage their workload so they can focus on doing a few, high impact, important things very well.
The #5MinWorkloadPlan has been designed to help schools, leaders & teachers review their current workload. It can also help to review new initiatives to see whether they are worthwhile introducing and if “yes” instead of what? Whilst accepting some issues which are adding significantly to schools’ and teachers’ workload are outside of our control (see @LeadingLearner’s post here), there are other issues which we can address as teachers and leaders. As you would expect, of a blog post on workload, we intend to keep this short and to the point.
The Workload Issue
The #5MinWorkloadPlan allows you to identify your top three workload issues and consider them alongside each other. If you are struggling for ideas, the most unnecessary and unproductive tasks identified in the recent Workload Challenge Report (a neat summary from @TeacherToolkit is here) are: lesson planning & policies; assessment and reporting administration; school administration and management and accountability.
Having identified a workload issue it is worth pausing for a moment to consider whether it is important and its potential impact. A simple question is, “What would happen if I didn’t implement this initiative/task at this moment in time?” For some initiatives, like important changes to the testing or examination system, which would have a high impact on children, they would be graded a high priority (H). Not everything can be important and some things don’t have a particularly high impact. These should be categorised as medium (M) or of low (L) priority. It is necessary to consider the importance and potential impact of issues and initiatives on priorities like standards, the quality of teaching & learning or the care, support or guidance of children.
You may already be at the point where you can abandon some current or proposed practices as they have limited impact or are of low importance.
We seem to be far better at increasing our workload than taking a hard cold look at what we do. It’s important to create the time and space to do a smaller number of tasks very well. It may be a whole system, set of activities or individual elements which can be abandoned, binned and consigned to history. Some may never have been that important nor had any really impact. Others may just have been overtaken by more important, more impactful ways of working. Every time you add something to your own or another person’s workload commit to also take something away.
Do More, Do Less
This is a slightly less drastic step than abandonment. It requires careful analysis of the various elements that make up a task or system. They may be some aspects which are worth doing more of. There will undoubtedly be other elements which you could do less of and still maintain the overall quality or impact. What would you do more or less of when planning for your classes or tracking progress or ensuring high quality feedback for students? More use of numbered success criteria means less writing of the same comments at the bottom of a class’ work.
One important way to improve your effectiveness and decrease workload is to increase your individual, department’s or school’s capacity. Time is finite and abandoning some practices, for example, completing administrative tasks in meetings to replace them with collaborative planning of learning can yield real benefits. Small costs associated with employing support staff can give teachers valuable time as can the effective use of technology and fit for purpose software. Creating more professional development time for staff, by finishing slightly earlier one afternoon per week, is an approach increasingly used by many schools. Training and development can help staff become more skilled and reduce the time taken to complete tasks. The final little graphic is a reminder; filter, filter, filter as you cannot do everything. It’s time to focus on your important, high impact priorities.
Here’s an example of how the plan can work. Feel free to send us any you complete:
We hope the #5MinWorkloadPlan helps you scribble your way to greater impact and a better work life balance for you and your staff.
Downloadable versions are here:
#5MinWorkloadPlan v2 – PowerPoint
More of the #5MinPlans co-authored with @TeacherToolkit are here:
Great post with clear and well stuctured examples. Taught this very topic to my tutor group yesterday.
For me the issue is the tension between professional educators who wish to prioritise tasks on the basis of their professional practice and many leaders who wish them to prioritise tasks on the basis that they consider critical that day/week.
Without this tension I believe the vast majority of teachers would be more effective and efficient. The process is simple, but criteria used for prioritisation is the key issue. I believe this is an issue for leaders but if we are not careful we are led back to Ofsted, incompetent managers, Dfe interference and sill fads.
Root cause analysis. Put right the values and the time management will flow, and I believe the key part of your model is the “abandon” part.
If only all educational leaders were as principled and professional as yourself.
Thanks BT. Always feel I need to defender the leaders a bit lol. It’s complex stood at the interface of the school and so many external forces. The complexity can produce many compromise type decisions. In the days of revolving doors for Head teachers some get blown off course. The issue of abandonment, as you say, is key. The 3 Heads in the Trust are currently talking to staff about what we could/should abandon – some of the decisions are going to be really tough