09 Feb 2015
What’s worse than doing nothing about a problem? Asking many thousands of teachers what you should do about about a problem, and then doing nothing in response.
What’s the worst way to ask them about them the problem? Well, here’s what you do if you run the DfE:
1. Ask teachers what they think about an issue which you know they will feel strongly about
2. Ask them in an open-ended way, that you know will be difficult to analyse
3. Gather 43,832 responses, but analyse the responses of just 1,685 survey respondents
4. Have someone analyse the data who seems to know nothing at all about schools
5. Suggest a radical new plan for dealing with the issues, then simply ignore them
6. Conduct the whole exercise in the run-up to an election when there is no time to do anything about it anyway.
schoolzone consults teachers pretty much every day, about a huge range of issues, on behalf of our clients. If we aped the DfE research strategy, we ’d make an awful lot more profit, since it would require minimal effort to set up, we’d ignore most of the data gathered and we’d just recommend clients to carry on as they are, without any need to refer to what teachers have said. However, no-one would commission any more research from us.
The Workload Challenge was Nicky Morgan's high profile initiative not terribly long after taking over from Gove. Presumably she picked up somewhere that teachers tend to feel overworked, thought, "I wonder if they all feel like that?" and decided to ask them in the cheapest, simplest (on the face of it) way possible. Presumably, she also thought, "the way things are done here at the DfE is to rush through half baked ideas and see what happens," and acted accordingly.
Normally, in these posts, we like to summarise the findings of consultations, so that teachers know what to expect, but you can probably guess from the above, that there is little point in doing so. The final report form this consultation is simply not worth reading. It offers no hope of any significant reduction in workload; indeed it makes no actual recommendations: instead it “explores the range of solutions”, all of which are for schools to do themselves, which obviously they would, if they could.
I started teaching in 1985 and teachers complained about exactly the same range of things then as they do now - while the systems that have changed (Ofsted, performance related pay etc), the pressure remains the same. In order to do better we have to try harder and do more of what we do well; less of what makes no difference - or worse. This is the same everywhere.
Here’s a workload challenge back to Mrs Morgan and her team: we challenge you to reduce your own workload, by meddling less and letting schools get on with doing what they need to do, which is to impress their stakeholders by delivering high quality teaching and learning, without continually shifting the goalposts.
If you must read the report, it’s here.
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