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Leadership, Thursday Thunks

3 Workload Busters for @educationgovuk (DfE) #ThursdayThunk

There’s something slightly irritating about organisations lining up to tell schools and school leaders what we could do to reduce workload.  I’m not a fan of the working group, subsequent report or poster approach to reducing workload; not convinced a video is going to do it for me either.  Always better to remove the plank in your own eye before trying to remove the splinter in someone else’s. 

The Secretary of State has promised, “… beyond those changes already announced and which are working their way through the system – apart from those, for the rest of this parliament there will be:

  • No new additional statutory tests or assessment for primary schools;
  • No further changes to the national curriculum; and
  • No more reform of GCSEs and A levels.”

 Seems great until people started thinking about the detail of what had actually been said.  Nothing has been taken away from the workload mountain nor anything in the pipeline has actually been shelved.  Rather unkindly, it feels a bit like, “Now we’ve introduced everything we want to and have no more ideas of things we want to impose then we’re calling it a day for this Parliament.”  In reality we need to do so much more and could.  Here are three workload busters that would make a big difference to many teachers’ lives and have little or no impact on pupils or standards.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Ditch the Year 4 Times Tables Check

By the end of Year 4 we need the majority of pupils to be fluent with respect to their times tables, as well as having a good concept of number.  What’s not needed is a national times tables checking exercise.  We can save the time, money and angst and simply decide the potential benefit of implementing the check is not worth the costs.

Ditch the Year 6 Teacher Assessment of Writing

I’m no longer sure what purpose these fulfil.  They are supposed to be a national assessment but the unreliability of the marking in-school, between schools and from one local authority to another means that they are now essentially ignored.  That is, they are ignored after about approximately 20,000 teachers and 500,000 pupils have jumped through the various contorted hoops created by the Department for Education.  There are alternative ways of assessing writing, for example, using comparative outcomes, but for the moment let’s just put a stop to the whole charade.

Ditch Key Stage 1 Tests

I understand the need for a baseline to calculate a value added score; this would be far better at the start of compulsory schooling but that is proving a particularly thorny issue.  The Key Stage 1 tests are wrongly placed as a baseline and dictate an early entry to formal schooling.

There are far better people to suggest an alternative model, but given the flaws of the teacher assessment model, and manipulation by some schools to achieve better progress scores to Key Stage 2; I wonder whether a pupil referenced progress model, using the Key Stage 2 test results, would enable equally valid conclusions to be drawn about a school’s effectiveness.  Essentially a pupil’s test score at Key Stage 2 is compared to the average for their particularly sub-group taking into account a series of contextualised factors like gender, ethnicity, level of disadvantage, EAL, special needs etc.  Far less work all round; more money saved.  There would be four years available to formulate and trial different approaches before full implementation whilst the Key Stage 1 Teacher Assessments work their way through the system.  This time could be used for statistical modelling behind the scenes.  No extra work for teachers, pupils or schools.

Imagine the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP standing up at some Summer Conference and saying, “It’s time to cut through some of the nonsense and really address teachers’ workload that is why I’m announcing from September 2018 we are going to ditch ….”  He could become the most loved and admired Secretary of State for Education in recent times.

Another option is for the unions and professional associations to stand together and taking collective action on the three issues named above.

#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.




  1. Pingback: Let’s Go Big or Go Home: Laying the Foundations of Workload Reform | @LeadingLearner - March 17, 2018

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