At the Castleman Academy Trust (CAT), we believe our staff are our greatest resource in ensuring learning is inspirational for our pupils. Staff who feel truly valued, are well supported and have a sensible work/life balance will not only impact learners but have enjoyable careers and be hugely successful themselves.
The current debate around teacher workload continues. We at CAT are very much aware of the damage excessive workload can have on our wonderful staff and students. As a learning community, we constantly look at how we make the demands of the profession manageable and improve how we work and ensure good mental health and well-being for all. We all share in the responsibility to help each other manage our workload, not only for our own social, emotional and mental health, but also for others.
For staff we have enabled flexibility over attendance at some of our key events. Other big events, such as our annual Summer Fair, have now been included in the staff time budget. Key community events, such as these, are too important to cut back on and so are built in to our planning. The calendar also shows when we have development time for staff to concentrate on our key foci. Many meetings occur between the end of the school day and the start of Parent Consultation Evenings, which themselves start early in order to avoid too late a finish for both staff and students.
Other things we do to support reducing teacher workload are:
- We have specialist staff where ever possible, so that staff don’t have to spend additional time on reading around an area they are not confident with.
- We avoid using supply teachers wherever possible. If staff are absent for any reason, their class is covered by someone who knows the children and knows the routines and expectations. This means staff don’t need to leave long instructions for staff, saving them time.
- We’ve changed our approach to marking. We focus on providing “feedback” as opposed to marking work. This helps make it clear that only specific pieces of work will be teacher marked, saving time but more importantly, focusses on learning.
- We regularly use whole class feedback. Not only is this a really effective assessment process it means that there is a reduction in marking books.
- We have started using Retrieval Practices for homework. This is a really effective technique, reducing marking for teachers and resource production.
- We’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of effort needed on display boards. We run “inclusive classrooms” which mean everything on the wall is to scaffold and support learning. This by default means that boards do not need to be changed throughout the year.
- We allocate above the expected PPA allocation regularly and wherever possible.
Both staff and students benefit from dedicated areas in which to prepare for lessons and assessment. Our staffroom is a place to relax and reflect with colleagues. The “Learning Breakfast” on a Friday gives staff a great opportunity to socialise and share experiences in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. There are several areas throughout our schools where staff can comfortable carry out PPA activities. We offer over the statutory amount of PPA time, knowing that this enables staff to complete tasks on site. Students and staff can work in the library, which is available before, throughout, and after the school day. Some classrooms are opened at lunchtime for students to work or relax in, while many of our clubs and activities also take place at this time. Having the majority of our clubs running in our long lunchtimes helps increase participation and reduces the need for students and staff to worry about transport before or after school.
The views and opinions of our staff and students provides one of our most important tools for reducing workload. We know we will always be hampered by the need to meet a range of external requirements and balancing budgets. But, our staff and students are able to provide ideas and act as critical friends in ways that make a real difference. To gather opinions we deploy a variety of strategies including focus group discussions and regular surveys – particularly around well being.
At CAT we believe managing our workload is everyone’s responsibility. However, there are always key individuals who are there to help. Our Curriculum Director has a specific role to support staff in managing their workload and help staff identify better ways of working, with a coaching approach.
In each CAT school there are specific strategies, activities and people in place to support work/life balance, well being and professional development. However, ALL CAT schools provide:
- Opportunities across our MAT to enhance skills and experience at both primary and secondary level
- Excellent career development opportunities
- Exceptional CPD provision including national and international experts in their field.
- An extensive support programme for Newly Qualified Teachers
- An ICT rich environment which allows staff to be innovative in harnessing technology for learning.
- Child care support for school age children