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Reducing Workload by Doing What Matters

Along with many other school leaders at least part of September is spent making sure the school’s website is compliant with the School Information Regulations (2012). Endless reports and policies some statutory but others written to lay at the altar of school accountability and bureaucracy.

A Twitter poll doesn’t actually count for much but the number of people who access these reports looks pretty slim if these polls are representative in any way.

Over three quarters of respondents haven’t accessed the school’s Pupil Premium Report. It would be interesting to know whether the 24% of respondents who did found them of any use; I didn’t ask that question. Maybe instead of issuing a Workload Reduction Toolkit, the day after most schools broke up for the summer, the Department for Education may have been better served removing some pointless elements of the School Information Regulations. The only way of addressing the workload issue is to reduce the amount of work schools and teachers are required to do; this might be a small but useful start.
The report on the School Sport Grant really plummeted the depths of irrelevance with 85% of respondents not accessing it. It isn’t that people don’t value sport rather they know what sport is going on in the school from their children, the school newsletters and their experiences as proud parents watching their children’s involvement. Given Ofsted only will only turn up once every four or so years the reporting doesn’t even hold water in terms of accountability. I doubt they work in terms of improving outcomes or provision; Professor Becky Allen has written an excellent set of posts including one about the perverse impact of the Pupil Premium reporting requirements.

The curriculum documents fare slightly better but not much. What the people, who had looked at the curriculum documents, actually thought I don’t know. My guess is that it would be a pretty mixed bags of comments reflective of the varying quality of the documents provided. Putting curriculum plans on websites is hoop jumping; it doesn’t work in terms of improving teaching and learning. Without even seeing Ofsted’s new framework, a couple of hours conversation every four years about the curriculum will drive more odd hoop jumping behaviours; another workload enhancing accountability measure.

However, the curriculum does matter. It matters that day in and day out teachers and school leaders are engaged in discussing, supporting and enhancing what goes on in the classroom. What are the key concepts we want pupils to understand; how can we sequence the knowledge to aid their learning and what common misconceptions might we need to unpick along the way? What experiences, skills and attitudes should form part of a child or young person’s learning experience whilst at school?
As school leaders it’s also our job to also get rid of the irrelevant; short term measures that don’t work and don’t matter – graded lesson observations, performance pay, frequent aggregated data collections, book scrutinies, excessive marking policies. The more trouble you think you are in, from our pernicious accountability system the more of the above you may need to ditch. It’s counter-intuitive and easy to be brave with other people’s employment but I’m not sure there is another ethical way forward. The off rolling, find easy qualifications school improvement journey can’t be allowed to continue.



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