DfE Workload Challenge Schools
The schools below took part in the DfE Workload Challenge Research project
which began in 2016 and was reported in March 2018.
12 schools explored ways of reducing workload and improving teacher wellbeing. 8 are featured here.
You can download the full report by clicking on the button towards the foot of the page.
Ashford Teaching Alliance
Approaches to Reducing Workload
Click on the school logo to download the full report from the Ashford Teaching Alliance
Two research tools were designed to identify school leaders’ and teachers’ understanding and perceptions of the purpose, process and validity of data use demands. They were informed by the workload review reports, the differentiated demand resources model and the local expertise of the teacher-researcher team. Responses were collaboratively analysed in order to develop practical recommendations for reducing workload related to data management.
Our expectation was that analysis of the research data gained through questionnaire and subsequent interviews would help to highlight issues within and across schools. In turn, this would enable practical advice and guidance to be distilled which could be shared across the network.
The research processes were evaluated in two ways:
The research process, ethical considerations and tools were developed by the teachers as researchers team, in conjunction with our university partner (UCL). The data was then collaboratively analysed by the teacher research team (with support from IOE and Education DataLab) in order to develop specific practical recommendations regarding teacher workload.
Click on the school logo above to download the full report from the Ashford Teaching Alliance
Southwark Teaching School Alliance (Now London South Teaching School Alliance)
Reducing Teacher Workload: Replacing Written Feedback with Verbal Feedback
Click on the school logo to download the full report from the Southwark Teaching School Alliance
In 2014, the government published the results of the teacher Workload Challenge survey, which revealed that excessive and in-depth marking was a key professional burden for many teachers. In September 2016, the National College of Teaching and Leadership invited schools and groups of schools to apply for funding to conduct research into effective marking practices. Southwark Teaching School Alliance was successful in its application and from January to June 2017, the Alliance (TSA) spent one full school term trialling an intervention that focused on verbal, as opposed to written, feedback in order to evaluate the impact of the method on overall teacher workload and student learning outcomes. This trial was evaluated in collaboration with UCL Institute of Education (IoE).
The intervention was designed and administered by Jemima Rhys-Evans from Charles Dickens Primary School and Sarah Field from John Donne Primary School, in response to the Teacher Workload Review Group report (1), the EEF review (2) and as a result of visits and conversations with ‘no-marking’ schools.
The reports chimed with their experience that teachers’ time was better spent planning meaningful next steps for children – either re-teaching, consolidating or extending their learning – and not working through piles of books giving feedback that children often either ignored, could not read or did not understand. A reduction in teacher workload was the starting point but the alliance also wanted to look at making teacher workload purposeful...
1 Eliminating unnecessary workload around planning and teaching resources, Report of the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group. DFE, London, 2016
2 A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. EEF, London, 2016
Click on the school logo above to download the full report from the Southwark Teaching School Alliance
Whitley Bay High School, Tyneside
Reducing Teacher Workload: Research report into shared planning
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Whitley Bay High School
In March last year, a report prepared by the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group (2016) proposed a series of principles aimed at eliminating unnecessary workload associated with planning and the preparation of resources. The document attracted much publicity and the issues raised have recently been discussed in articles appearing in such magazines as the NAHT’s Leadership Focus (Bowen, 2017) and SecEd (O’Connell, 2017). Collaborative planning features prominently in the Review Group’s report, and O’Connell recognises that the provision of opportunities for work of this kind forms one of the key means of addressing the workload challenge.
After a successful application for funding had been made to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), Whitley Bay High School and its collaborating schools and academic partners (i.e. Professor Christine Merrell, of Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, and independent research consultant Dr. Andrew K. Shenton) investigated the area of shared planning, with specific reference to the capacity of the practice to reduce the time teachers spend on planning whilst maintaining high standards of student attainment and engagement.
Shared planning was chosen as a focus for Whitley Bay High’s Workload Challenge Study for two main reasons. Firstly, the report of the Teacher Workload Review Group (2016) specifically recommended that “teachers should engage in collaborative planning” (p. 12). Secondly, a degree of shared planning had already taken place at Whitley Bay High and the school’s senior leaders had prior, anecdotal knowledge of its potential to lessen workload and raise the standard of teaching and learning. The practice was not, however, school policy and had not hitherto been applied consistently throughout the organisation. The study presented an opportunity to embed shared planning and apply it across the school in order to raise standards of teaching and learning in all curriculum areas...
Click on the school logo above to download the full report from Whitley Bay High School
Flying High Partnership
Reducing Teacher Workload: Reducing Marking
Click on the school logo to download the full report from the Flying High Partnership
The research topic covered a trial of six different approaches to reduce marking workload within sixteen schools over an average of one term. The approaches used were: Marking in the Moment; Visible Learning into Action; Minimal Marking; Self-Assessment; Symbols; and Marking Conferences.
Review Group Recommendations
The research and approaches selected to reduce marking workload were informed by the findings and evidence from the Workload Review Group Report ‘Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking’ (WRGR, 2016), the Education Endowment Foundation report ‘A marked Improvement’ (EEF, 2016) and Hattie’s work on feedback from ‘Visible Learning into Action’ (Hattie et al, 2016).
The three main principles of effective marking – that it should be meaningful, manageable and motivating – and the following key messages from the Workload Review Group Report formed the basis of decisions on which approaches to trial:
WOWS Research Project
Reducing Teacher Workload: Marking
Click on the school logo to download the full report from the WOWS Research Project
This project was undertaken by one of five Consortia of schools in Wigan in response to the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group report, Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking (DfE, 2016). The project was self-directed and did not draw on any external funding. The project ran for just over twelve months and carefully and accurately applied the principles of assessment without levels. Outcomes of the project show:
Gains in reduced workload were seen in every school, some of which were very substantial.
The new processes significantly reduced the burden on teachers, improved teacher morale, and improved teaching and learning.
There was a dramatic reduction in time spent marking and recording, and an improvement in learning processes and pupil outcomes.
The application of the principles contained in the workload report helped with removing previously bureaucratic marking processes that were burdensome and unhelpful.
Changes to new marking practices resulted in no reports of negative impacts on pupils’ learning; with some schools reporting clear gains in pupils’ progress and enhanced engagement with the learning process.
The WOWS Consortium showed improvements in National Curriculum assessments in both key stage 1 and 2 across reading, writing and mathematics compared with 2016 (source: Wigan LA). However, at this point further research will be required to investigate any correlation between new marking practices and statutory assessment outcomes.
The key resources for improved practice are good management and the professionalism of teachers.
Changes to practice can be made quickly to the benefit of teachers and pupils.
All schools in the project are committed to keeping their practices under review.
WOWS is a collaborative of 17 schools in Wigan that have been working in partnership for many years. The schools within the partnership differ in their intakes, size, denomination and inspection outcomes. A key feature of the partnership is the trust that exists between schools resulting in discussions that are open and honest: and is a foundation for the partnership work across the other consortia and educational collaboratives in Wigan.
This project offered a unique opportunity to tackle a significant national issue, that of teacher workload and the outcomes have shown that there are simple means of making the workload manageable. It demonstrates that the key resources are good management and the engagement of staff. The project has also shown that change can be made quickly to the benefit of teachers and pupils.
Click on the school logo above to download the full report from the WOWS Research Project
St Peter's Church of England Primary School, Portishead
Reducing Teacher Workload: Summative Assessment and Data Management
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St Peter's Church of England Primary School
and its partners
Our research project focused on investigating if creating a common school-based summative assessment and data management system across a recently formed Multi Academy Trust, the Lighthouse Schools Partnership (LSP), would reduce teacher workload.
At the time the research was completed the LSP consisted of three primary schools, one infant and one secondary school – all of whom participated in the project. Since completion of the research project, another secondary school has joined and further primaries are due to join the LSP.
Data and assessment is an area that many teachers identify as taking up a substantial amount of their time – 56% of respondents to the 2015 DfE Workload Challenge consultation identified this as an area that caused unnecessary workload. A lack of clarity around the purpose of collecting data was identified as the cause of this, alongside the process of collecting the data being seen as inefficient, with duplication seen as a common problem.
Our research project investigated if establishing a school-based summative assessment system with the following would reduce teacher workload:
The Workload Review Group report on eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management (March 2016) concluded there are common overarching principles that should apply to all data collection in our schools:
Click on the school logo above to download the full report from St Peter's Church of England Primary School
Jurassic Coast Teaching Schools Alliance
Reducing Teacher Workload: Data Collection
Our innovative, interdisciplinary project set out to investigate whether some of the principles which underpin the medical profession’s approach to using data can be helpfully applied in schools. Ten participant teachers were selected from a range of schools in the Jurassic Coast Teaching Schools’ Alliance.
Focus Group 1
This Focus Group was used to investigate the current attitudes of the participant teachers towards the purpose of data in their school settings. Pair and whole group discussions were used to identify broad themes and then individual questionnaires were used to gather both quantitative and qualitative data from the participant teachers. Analysis of the data confirmed two of the key findings from the Review Group – there was a lack of clarity around the purpose of data collection and approaches taken to data collection and analysis can impact negatively on teacher workload (see Figure 1 and example comments below).
Q21 In what ways does data impact on your workload?
‘It is my workload – along with marking’.
‘It puts an enormous amount of stress to get data collected and to make sure that the data doesn’t reveal any inadequacies in my teaching’.
Our academic partner for the project (Professor Karen Mattick, The University of Exeter Medical School) secured the support and commitment of four clinicians (three GPs and a consultant surgeon). An interdisciplinary event with participant teachers and medical stakeholders was held with the aim of professionals learning with, from and about each other. Each clinician gave a 10-minute presentation in which they focused on a different aspect of data in their professional roles (e.g. population data; data for improvement; practice level data; data for appraisal). The participant teachers then discussed the approaches taken with the four clinicians individually. During the presentations and discussions, the participant teachers were asked to take notes on similarities and differences that they noticed between the ways teachers and clinicians use data.
Focus Group 2
The primary purpose of Focus Group 2 was to identify findings from the interdisciplinary event and to use these to inform individual action planning (see Figure 2). Each participant teacher created an individual action plan which they took back to their schools to disseminate the project findings through meetings, CPD sessions, staff briefings, newsletters etc. The action plans identified what the participant teachers would continue, stop and start doing with data and what their immediate next step was. The immediate next steps included:
‘Ask for additional training in the interpretation of data’
‘Look at more longitudinal data’
‘Reinstate the need to talk about class data’
‘Ask Leadership Team about why we collect data’
Click on the school logo above to download the full report from Jurassic Coast Teaching Schools Alliance
Reducing Teacher Workload through Real-Time Personalised Feedback
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Research topic, questions and hypothesis
To summarise the current problems associated within assessment, data management, workload and their relationship to students’ outcomes, research points to the following major causes for concern: teachers’ wellbeing and retention are impacted negatively by both frequent and sometimes unnecessary data analyses and the unnecessary workload that arises in the form of excessive deep marking. Research seems to indicate that ‘after the event’ feedback is neither efficient nor effective and that “too often, the collection of date becomes an end in itself, divorced from the core purpose of improving outcomes for pupils” (Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management – Report of the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group, March 2016, page 5).
With these conclusions in mind, we undertook an evaluation of current practices in our schools (The Aquinas Trust) with regards to the gathering and use of assessment information. The research examined the diversity and quality of assessment, as well as the extent to which the work associated with gathering and use of assessment information impacted on teacher workload, improved student outcomes and enhanced the quality of school transition processes.
In response to the recommendations of these reports, which were to “reduce the amount of formal testing, data collection and its analysis by adopting the principles of quality formative assessment” and “reduce the amount of marking and improve the value of feedback to students and teachers through high quality verbal feedback” the research sought to answer the following two research questions:
What is the impact of current practices in the trust’s schools on teacher workload and student outcomes?
What is the impact of personalised, ‘real-time’ assessment and feedback on teachers’ workload and the outcomes for students?
Approaches to reducing workload
In order to answer research question 1, teacher questionnaires were used. To answer research question 2, teachers from the primary sector and the teachers of English in the secondary schools were involved in the research. Questionnaires and interviews were also used to assess the impact of the teachers’ assessment, marking and feedback on learning outcomes. With selected focus groups of students and teachers, structured interviews were held to evaluate both the method of the research and the resultant data.
Click on the trust logo above to download the full report from Aquinas Trust
DfE Workload Challenge Report 2018
Click on the image below to download the full report of all the
schools involved in the Workload Challenge
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