Workload still an issue for teachers in schools globally

Online tools such as ParentPaperwork are a great way to reduce teacher workload.

Where do forms fit in?

This is not a new topic that I’m about introduce. And it’s one I’m hoping for the sake of my 9 month old niece in Phoenix, Arizona and my children’s future children and their teachers, will be solved sometime soon.

What am I talking about? Well as the CEO of an Edtech startup based in Melbourne, Australia one of the key issues that we talk about in our office amongst the team, is ways that we can help schools run better by using the ParentPaperwork platform to automate paper form processes inside the administrative function of the school. And just because what we do deals with administrative forms, doesn’t mean we don’t positively impact teachers too. It does and I’ll explain more further in.

Teacher workload is not going away as an issue

In the education news sources I scanned last month in Melbourne The Age highlighted a new survey, ‘Put Education 1st‘, commissioned by the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch which found that most teachers are failing basic tasks due to out-of-control workload. You can quibble on the numbers, however when surveying 13,000 teachers leads the survey to the conclusion that teacher workload is going crazy, then I pay attention.

50 to 60 hour work weeks, the new normal?

Earlier this month the BBC reported that many teachers in the UK were working 60 hour weeks. This compares to the Australian teachers who are working in the 50 to 55 hour range and Australian principals over 60 hours a week. The BBC story drew on a report from the Education Policy Institute that used data from the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey between 2012 and 2014. Again the issue of teacher workload and the issue of administrative tasks is mentioned over and over.

One thing I know for sure as a parent who has one child who has made it through 13 years of schooling and another who has another two years to go, and a third who will be in the Australian special education system for another 8 years, I do not want my children taught by someone who is stressed, tired, exhausted and on the point of overwhelm. And that is ditto for my niece and my children’s children. A well-rested, happy, dynamic and positive teacher who really drives the teaching/learning experience, can’t be expected to thrive in a culture and environment of chronic overwork.

New Edtech can be part of the workload solution

I’d like to say that we have a solution for you in ParentPaperwork, however what I think is more accurate to say is that we can be a part of the solution. One point of the UK story that worries me is that teachers are being shortchanged professional development opportunities because there simply isn’t time to attend them or apply for them. They are missing out on learning about the latest techniques, technologies and peer developments that could be shared and deployed to alleviate their current workload.

The part of the solution that we offer should make both teachers and principals happier. On the student side of the equation ParentPaperwork deals with all the forms that go home to parents requiring responses such as permission forms, rsvp’s and the like. The schools who use ParentPaperwork have found over 150 regular form processes that can be deployed using our platform.

The most important equation is the teacher-student relationship

Anecdotally principals and other education leaders report to members of my team that there are many issues that keep them awake at night but maybe the most contentious is how to best support teachers in their efforts to teach and create and grow positive relationships with students.

Principals are also telling us that they want to know about Edtech solutions that their teachers will use. That means they must solve a real problem and be easy and quick to use. Qualitatively I think we know that no matter how much data and structure you give to the bulk of the student population, the single most important factor in student success is the quality of the relationships they have with their teachers. One outstanding, thoughtful and caring teacher can switch a student who is flailing around struggling to fit in to the school environment, back on to learning, not simply because the teacher makes the content compelling but because they also create a bond of trust and safety and a space to learn. Learning after all is about taking a risk to move position from what one knows now and defending that, to opening one’s mind to a bigger picture and greater potential.

How much time does your staff spend on forms?

If you’re a principal I wonder if you’re aware how much time your teachers spend on some basic forms that are part of school life. How many hours do you think are spent doing the following?

* preparation of forms

* photocopying and distribution of forms

* collection of forms and follow ups

* management of the information – is this re-transcribed into another format?

* collation of information

* concerns about accuracy of the information and following up

* storing and retrieval of form information, when required

Schools are busy places and in any week there will be incursions, excursions, specialist classes and activities that require some kind of permission process to take place.

Real Edtech solutions, not fads

As Edtech entrepreneurs we’re not interested in creating tech bling and products that make a teacher, administrator, or Principal’s working day harder. Our mission is to help schools run more smoothly and to make our contribution towards taking a school paperless. We hope that a byproduct of what we do can help give teachers back a few precious hours a week, hours not spent distributing and collecting and hassling for forms from students. And give Principals, the capacity to know that all forms processes that run their school can be viewed at a glance and reports and analysis generated so that some of the compliance and other issues that keep them awake at night, can be put to bed for good.

If you’re currently part of the ParentPaperwork revolution then congratulations, we’re just getting started and we welcome you to help us make your school as efficient and effective on the administrative side as possible. If you’re not, please consider directing your Head of IT to our site for a demonstration. We are not the whole solution to teacher and principal stress and overwhelm but our current schools customers are finding that we take you a good way there. Time off forms and administration is time given back to the people you work with and to your students. Which in my view, is where best to put your precious time and energy.

Why the sad face? The loss of morale in teachers

Everyone in every job in every country at some point thinks, ‘I hate my job’. It’s one of the challenges with full-time work – but, when you are overworked, overstressed and falling behind, those four little words can begin to creep into your everyday vernacular.

This is certainly beginning to apply to teachers as job satisfaction levels reach record lows.

A 2012 MetLife Survey of Teachers found teacher job satisfaction declined from 62 percent of teachers feeling ‘very satisfied’ in 2008 to 39 percent by 2012. The survey also showed 51 percent of US teachers report feeling under great stress several days a week. But the trend does not stop there.

A recent survey by the Guardian Teaching Network found, by large, teachers in the UK feel overworked and undervalued, with 82 percent saying their workload is unmanageable and only four in 10 saying they are happy with their job.

And, in Australia, teachers work harder than their colleagues across the world. On average, Australian primary school teachers have 871 face-to-face hours with students annually compared to the world average of 782 hours per year.

This is leading to a decline in not only the amount of students enrolling in teacher courses, but it has been reported close to 50 percent of those who graduate as teachers leave the profession in the first five years.

When you actually crunch all these numbers, add the stress and overtime, these factors are major contributors to a loss of morale in teachers. And the biggest question that remains is: how do you win back that lost morale?

In Australia, the Grattan Institute put out the report, ‘Making time for great teaching’, which found teachers need to cut back on things that don’t directly improve teaching and learning. The report showed, when teachers were more efficient by cutting back on unnecessary tasks, they could spend more time doing what they loved – teaching.

This research is also in step with the UK Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who recently explained, “Teachers should spend more of their working week in the classroom rather than carrying out pointless administration tasks.”

“More should be done to tackle the issue of ‘unnecessary workload’ faced by teachers to give them more time with children.”

One of the ways teachers can take charge of their workload is to cut down on irrelevant or outdated processes and even start school initiatives for assisting the entire teaching workforce.

First, find out which aspects of classroom time you can control. In some schools, teachers find they can reduce the time it takes to schedule lessons, grade papers and plan extracurricular activities by using digital tools to better organise calendars and paperwork.

The key is to find simple solutions for eliminating menial work like printing paper, or brush up on some time management skills by really looking at where your time is going during the day. And, if any of these methods work, it is a great opportunity to share your time-saving methods with the rest of the teaching team to hopefully adopt a school-wide approach to lessen the workload.

Rich McKinney, PhD, an award winning assistant principal in the US, explains how taking the initiative helps empower teachers and leads to better teaching and student learning outcomes. He says, “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”

“Students need teachers are who are highly competent role models, whose talents and expertise are leveraged both inside and outside of the classroom, and when possible, away from school in the community. When students recognize their teachers are leaders, their natural response will be to follow. School morale can only improve in this type of environment.”

There may be a loss of morale but it does not spell destruction for the teaching industry. Instead, it is an opportunity to take back control and get back to the real reason you became a teacher – to teach.

Read about how ParentPaperwork is playing its part in reducing teacher and school administration stress.

Tackling Bureaucracy: a lesson in cutting through education’s red tape

The myth of the seven-hour workday for teachers has well and truly been busted with the sector now seeing record rates of attrition, especially in those starting out in the profession.

Our previous post on teacher workload came as reports emerged from the UK that more than 4,000 teachers were quitting monthly with over 80% citing workload as the reason. Previously, we’d looked at the unworkable hours Australian teachers were facing along with just what exactly was keeping them chained to the desk.

While around a standard eight hours a day are being spent in the classroom, studies have shown that a further three to five hours were spent by teachers in a bureaucratic mire of paperwork that includes writing extensive reports on students to measure their progress against established benchmarks.

The issue is not one that is unique to Australia or the US. Scotland has recently shone the spotlight on excessive bureaucracy and red tape faced by teachers with the government responding to complaints about what was labelled an “Amazonian forest” of paperwork that was preventing teachers from getting on with the job.

Poll from Mirror Article

The amount of bureaucracy in schools around the world is large with long-winded processes being entrenched in the culture of institutions of all sizes. As a result, a new initiative in Scotland, Curriculum for Excellence, has been undertaken in the name of “tackling bureaucracy”, offering a framework that intends to meet the problem head on.

The key tenets of the initiative are:

  • Promoting better teaching and learning, unobscured by bureaucracy and unnecessary paperwork;
  • Keeping paperwork to the minimum required to support this process;
  • Proportionate planning processes focusing on the most significant aspects of learning and teaching, and supporting professional dialogue;
  • Self-evaluation focused only on the key information required to support improvement;
  • Holistic approaches to profiling and reporting that support good quality dialogue with parents; and
  • Tracking of pupil progress and moderation being proportionate and assessment judgements being based on evidence drawn mainly from day-to-day teaching and learning.

Scotland’s schools minister Alasdair Allan said: “It is unacceptable that hard-working teachers should have to cope with pointless paperwork.

“Our message is clear – everyone in education has a responsibility to root out unnecessary bureaucracy and this can be done by simplifying processes and focusing on major priorities.”

The initiative came after the launch last year by EIS, Scotland’s largest education trade union, of an online application to provide teachers with a user-friendly method of keeping track of their workload as part of the larger Make Time for Teaching campaign.

The high profile initiative had come as a result of the ten-year high in attrition rates for teachers across Scotland and the UK. While the initiative has been accused of not going far enough by some unions, schools have been urged to cut bureaucracy and reform their processes with inspectors visiting classrooms to highlight processes that could be done in a more efficient manner or dropped altogether.

Overall, the campaign shows an awareness of the problem at a higher level, as it has only just begun to roll out in Scotland. The world will be watching closely to see if these kinds of measures can help save the sector and discourage unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy from overtaking our schools. Only time will tell but it is initiatives such as these that can be the first steps in permanent change.