Pupil Premium – The power of 3

Firstly, I should stress that I do not have all the answers in overcoming social mobility. The attainment gap for disadvantaged children in this country is a depressing reality that I am only just scratching the surface of. We have a very small number of Pupil Premium children in my school (somewhere between 8-10%). As a result our pupil premium budget is swallowed up quite quickly but the challenges are still the same. Unfortunately our small sample sizes means data regularly lets me down or can’t be relied upon to accurately measure the impact we are having. This blog is just a quick insight into the journey I have gone on to ensure that, at the very least, our funding is allocated appropriately, has impact and is properly evaluated before being allocated again.

Secondly, I should say that if you haven’t read Stephen Tierney’s DIY A B C to Pupil Premium. You must read it first. https://leadinglearner.me/2017/06/23/diy-review-of-pupil-premium-start-at-a/ It formed the basis of most of my ideas for the strategy I have put in place and was enormously helpful at a time when I had lost all inspiration.

My initial challenge was to identify common barriers for our children. I found the following things. Our pupil premium children either: –

  1. Struggled Academically – e.g. falling behind in their levels or making less progress than their peers
  2. Struggled socially – e.g. behaviour, learning attitudes, emotional issues, family support or attendance were an issue
  3. Weren’t struggling at all but were in danger of doing so later in life as experiences were limited

Establishing this as a 3-pronged attack really helped my next steps. Firstly, I got the teachers to tell me which child was affected by which barrier. A simple Venn diagram allowed me to do this.

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I set mine up on publisher and then just let the teachers drag their child’s name (already set up in a text box) to the right section. This simple low maintenance exercise gave me the best picture possible of our Pupil Premium Children and from there everything got easier.

Previously, we had always started with an intervention we wanted to put in place for a very small group of PP children. Normally this was the PP children who had sprung straight to mind e.g. those who fell on our SEN register, were our lowest ability, or were very obviously suffering from poverty, falling immediately onto our vulnerable children’s list. So, we’d spend money on a school counsellor, a nurture group leader or a maths intervention for example. It would have impact which was provable but we often found that it cost more than their allowance could cover and it was actually needed by a whole number of children who, although struggling, didn’t actually qualify for the funding. Not an enormous problem. After all, the guidelines don’t rule out spending money on schemes that impact other ‘disadvantaged’ children. However, in our area quite often our Pupil Premium children don’t necessarily fit the ‘stereotype’. In fact, we had quite a few who you wouldn’t immediately recognise as disadvantaged. Therefore, proving we had used the funding to impact every pupil premium child when a large chunk of the budget had gone on just one or two ‘obvious’ children became really difficult. Our middle achieving or high achieving pupil premium children missed out altogether. Particularly those who fell into the ‘green’ section of the Venn diagram. They weren’t in interventions; they didn’t get support from our Family Liaison officer and ultimately, we weren’t actually using their funding effectively. Therefore, my Venn diagram overview became essential in helping me focus our ideas on the bigger picture making sure we targeted every individual Pupil Premium child.

Like fairy tales, the ‘power of 3’ seemed to be working for me so when I started looking at how to use the funding I stuck with it, building into my policy a shopping list for each barrier that I could revisit year after year as my Venn diagram changed. This is what I came up with:-

Providing Academic Support Providing family or Emotional Support Broadening the curriculum providing enriching experiences to encourage life long learning.
Where a child is underachieving or making less progress than their non-disadvantaged peers, the funds are used for Teaching Assistants or Teachers providing specific interventions to ensure the gaps are closed. Where a child is in need of family support, the funds are used for our pastoral team, including both teaching assistants and the family liaison officer. Where a child is in need of rich cultural experiences to enhance their learning experience, the funds are used for either whole school initiatives that will support that child’s learning or a specific interest that the parent is unable to cater for financially.
· TA hours and training

· Training or resources for specific interventions

· External agencies providing interventions including speech and language

· Family Liaison officer’s hours and training

· Pastoral teaching assistant’s hours and training

· Intervention from the EWO

· Counselling or emotional support from outside agencies for either child or parent

· Family learning

· Transport to help with attendance

· Provision of uniform or school supplies

·       A whole curriculum enrichment programme (including resources and/or staff training) e.g. development of Vocabulary teaching, maths mastery or rich knowledge curriculum

· Computing equipment

· Books or resources that will enhance learning across the curriculum for all children

· Specialist teachers for specific subject areas

· Paying for an outside interest club

· Paying for school trips (including residential trips)

 

Now for proving impact

This was the trickiest bit. How could I test the strategies I’d put in place if results weren’t necessarily going to show it? In a world where progress is still very ambiguous (that’s a whole different blog for a whole different day) I decided that it was best to prove achievement anecdotally instead of trying to use numerical progress data which would be highly unreliable. So we opted for… yes you’ve guessed it… a 3-pronged attack to find the evidence. Termly gap analysis (1) of children’s targets/objectives would show where they had closed a gap academically (especially if there were samples of work where they had been attending a specific intervention), children’s questionnaires (2) would show positive impact of the academic and pastoral or broader curriculum strategies put in place and attendance data (3) would show impact of attendance strategies.

Our questionnaires are double sided (child side completed first, then teacher side). They are completed termly and reviewed by class teachers and phase leaders in class reviews. From this phase leaders can make sure the disadvantaged children are in the right academic interventions or the right pastoral support. I keep running track in a financial spreadsheet of what these will cost against each child’s name to make sure funding is being used where needed and phase leaders and core subject leaders review the interventions regularly.

These questionnaires also give our middle and high achieving disadvantaged children a voice as they identify the things that they want to do and especially highlight where the curriculum can be made broader and deeper. It is my belief that fostering talent and aspiration in disadvantaged children is crucial in improving social mobility and responding to their hopes and dreams helps us to target funding correctly. This way we don’t just concern ourselves with improving the immediate outcomes of underachieving disadvantaged pupils but nurture and encourage talent and aspiration for those whose backgrounds might see them give up in the future even if, for now, they are achieving.

Happily Ever After?

The evidence collected is then used to analyse the spend before I make plans for next year. In my annual review I group it under my “Power of 3 headings” and it certainly has sped up the process. As evidence is being continually analysed throughout the year, we can easily decide which bits we want to keep for the following year and which bits need reviewing.

It is still a work in progress but it has been an interesting journey coming up with a Pupil Premium strategy and while we are still trying our best to find the most effective items for our shopping list of strategies at least we can be confident our monitoring is helping us to constantly question what works and what doesn’t.

My top tips.

  • A visual representation of the barriers in your school like a Venn diagram can make everything clearer.
  • Writing a shopping list of strategies that might help those barriers gives you flexibility to tailor things to the specific children in mind, year on year
  • Pupil voice is some of the best evidence of how your strategies impact especially if progress data is unreliable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother went to market and bought…. some knowledge, some good texts and some colour coding…. My thoughts on curriculum planning for logical narratives

I’ve written a lot of blogs while on maternity leave, none of which have made the cut to be published, so addled with baby brain most of them have been abandoned to the archives pretty quickly. However, with the return to work a week away and inspired by a brilliant #BrewEdHackney event and some excellent training from Martin Robinson (@Trivium21c) these are my thoughts on curriculum, with enormous thanks to what I have learnt from both Martin and Clare Sealy.

At #BrewEdHackney Clare Sealy drew attention to something that’s been bothering me for a while: how much do we actually know about what happens in the years before or after the year we’re teaching? Sometimes I think that the curriculum can wrongly seem like a giant game of ‘My mother went to market… A list of things to remember that’s constantly growing, each teacher adding a bit more in. However, if as teachers we only join the game half way through, facilitating children to remember is a very difficult thing to do. Also, when you play this game the more random the list becomes as a result of individual’s imaginings the harder it becomes to remember. With no overall purpose to mother’s trip to the market there are no sensible links between the things she bought. How difficult does that make the list to remember?

My husband and I have a joke that if I go to the shops hungry I end up leaving with guacamole and Party Rings. Although this only happened once, it is worth thinking about. If I go to the shops or ‘mother goes to market’ with a recipe in mind it’s much easier to remember what’s been bought and much easier to make something that’s more nutritious and tasty from what’s brought home. There are links between the ingredients.

‘So how does all this musing about grocery shopping link to the curriculum? I hear you ask’…. Good question. Martin Robinson talked about the importance when planning a joined-up curriculum of ‘always passing the baton on’ from teacher to teacher. What is true of groceries is true of knowledge. Every bit of ‘stuff’ (as Martin Robinson called it) that we add to our trolley has to have something else it can relate to in a logical narrative to aid learning, just like shopping with a recipe in mind.

It seems obvious but in Primary schools where the curriculum is time pressured and its design is often done either by individual subject leaders or by individual year group teams the baton changes have become clunky or dropped completely. In Clare Sealy’s 3D Curriculum she talks about designing the curriculum with vertical, horizontal and diagonal links, ones that help make sure that children revisit things, augmenting and adapting their schemas all the time, making progress. This model keeps the baton moving all the time. After all, we want children, by the time they leave year 6, to become efficient shoppers and have collected enough ingredients that they can put together a whole recipe, better still that they can put together several recipes using multiple ingredients in multiple ways (linking facts, knowledge and examples to build understanding). In fact, as I was reminded by Martin Robinson, children’s creativity comes from engaging with rich knowledge. Only if we teach good recipes and get children to be experts in produce will we end up with a truly talented chef: a learner so adept at juggling all his knowledge and understanding that he starts to come up with new ideas altogether.

So how can we make this work? Take this example, last year I taught a year 5 class I had also taught in year 3. How much easier was it for me to develop Year 5s understanding and enthusiasm for Viking Mythology, when looking at stories set in the icy hell of Jotunheim, because I could draw on their experience of having read Robert Swindell’s ‘The Ice Palace’ in Year 3? How much more memorable was it and how much better was their vocabulary as they drew on the memory of another frozen land? The truth is ‘a lot.’ Delving into the memory of Ivan’s journey made the new learning feel like it was tethered to something and therefore it would be remembered. From our study of Odd and the Frost Giants to this video https://www.literacyshed.com/jotun.html, remnants of Ivan’s journey from the Ice Palace haunted their work but were equally built on with new information. Progress had been made.

Now we are not all fortunate enough to have taught the same class twice nor do I believe it’s good for children necessarily to have the same teacher too many times but it takes me back to Clare Sealy’s vertical and diagonal links, Martin’s baton or, as I like to think of them, recipes.

Take a theme or an idea let’s say ‘adventures in snowy lands’ How much greater would the learning have been if my year 5’s memory of ‘The Ice Palace’ in Year 3 had been tethered to having read ‘The Princess and the White Bear King’ in Year 2? How much greater would the learning have been had they gone on to look at ‘Shackleton’s Journey’ in Year 6? Could they then revisit these experiences when they come to study Hardy’s ‘Darkling Thrush’, or Robert Frost’s ‘Desert Places’ or Sonnet 97 at secondary school?

For good teachers establishing the horizontal links across a year is a natural step often rooted in using good quality texts that link to humanities or science learning. However, in a world where there has been pressure for middle leaders to try to prove their individual worth, joined up thinking between subjects has been relegated to a foot note, the baton dropped while middle leaders have been so focused on proving their impact scrutinizing work or plans, commenting on differentiation or learning objectives and giving feedback to staff. How many (to save precious time) have abandoned the curriculum documents in favour of giving their class teachers a bought or free scheme of work which inevitably, at least one teacher will say they can’t fit in to the timetable

So how can middle leaders possibly have the time to plan a joined-up curriculum? The answer is that they don’t have to do it. Middle leadership isn’t and shouldn’t be about schemes of work, paperwork, scrutiny and feedback. It should be about inspiring others and teamwork. A curriculum with what Martin Robinson calls ‘a logical narrative’ is a collaborative process that is far more concerned with inspiring teachers than monitoring them. I was always taught as a leader that you are only as strong as your weakest team member but it is absurd in education to think like this. Every school has teachers (or indeed cover supervisors and HLTAs these days) for whom a nice printed scheme of work will help ensure that the subject gets taught but as teachers we wouldn’t give our struggling students the answer sheet just so they finish the work so why do it with our teachers? It shouldn’t be any different to getting the best work out of the children. The best curriculum is the one teachers build themselves when they are inspired.

An inspired teacher will build a year full of horizontal links and this is good bedrock for a joined-up curriculum. Schemes of work often mask what in the curriculum are simple aims, more easily achieved by doubling up and making links. I believe teachers equipped with the National curriculum rather than a scheme of work can fit far more into the time they have. In my first job, I worked under a fearsome deputy head who insisted that we always went back to our old ring-bound copy of the curriculum. He vigorously tapped it in almost every staff meeting and this has really influenced my planning and subsequently my leadership. Revealing the curriculum to staff in such a way that inspires them to plan creatively is when middle leaders can really say they’ve had impact. Do not get me wrong. Don’t throw out the schemes of work completely. Used properly and dipped in and out of for the really good resources they are an important time saving tool for teachers and Middle leaders should be able to identify the good ones. However, insisting teachers follow them slavishly without establishing the logical narratives is a fool’s game that will almost always result in timetable overload and rushed shallow lessons.

Imagine then a curriculum planning session where each teacher comes with the ‘shape of their year’ set out. Harnessing all the passions, enthusiasm and knowledge they are looking forward to developing over the year. Then as a team, with middle leaders suitably armed with the expert knowledge of their subject’s curriculum, you start to check the vertical links for each subject. Tweaks can then be made as a team establishing new ones and strengthening existing ones as teachers share their ideas and add new texts, not just for their own year group but the years that lead up to it. Just like a relay team practising those baton changes, staff start to invest in weaving in the knowledge points of the curriculum. They gain understanding of the bigger picture, seeing where ideas are revised and revisited and, to bring me back full circle, knowing what happens from year to year.

So how can you start to ‘shape the year’? Firstly, I think you have to identify good quality texts, or knowledge that children will spend time getting to know. It’s the ‘stuff’ or ‘Grammar’ as Martin Robinson puts it (some of this will indeed come from schemes of work) The curriculum can then be built around small projects that engage with this knowledge. Within that, you need to plan explicit opportunities for rhetoric. The rhetoric is how children communicate what they have learnt, essentially your writing and speaking opportunities. Ensuring that there is a wide variety of these, where children will get to publish completed written work in different styles relevant to different subjects and using subject specific vocabulary is vital to establishing those high standards. Once you’ve shaped the year and identified your vertical links you can then dig down into the detail and start thinking about what the vocabulary journeys look like in those themes (another blog subject for another day)

I’ve mocked up what it might look like when you’ve finished – just looking at a few year groups.

The main learning is text or project based but commonly linked to humanities or science learning. Writing (rhetoric) opportunities are in italics. Vertical links or common recipes are indicated by the coloured dots. (See key at the bottom)

Curriculum Map 2 – 6

I cannot stress enough that this just an example. Firstly, I built it without any collaboration. A true version of this sort of curriculum will harness the texts and projects that your teachers are passionate about and that fit with the aims of the humanities and science curriculum. The texts and projects I’ve chosen might not work for everyone. Secondly there is more to this than I can put on one document. Things that happen at certain times of the school year need to be factored in as your team puts it together and how you arrange your timetable is also really important (but that’s a whole different blog for a whole different day.) However, I hope this visualisation helps to make my ramblings about groceries clearer. One important thing to note is that I didn’t start with all my recipes. They have changed and adapted several times as I’ve gone along (I’m also fairly certain in a collaborative process my science leader would have a few things to say) but hopefully a curriculum like this would mean that no child left school with only guacamole and Party Rings.

 

 

Are ‘Values’ devaluing themselves in our schools?

myth-2

I saw this Ofsted myth floating around twitter the other day and it really struck a chord. ‘School values’ have been a thorn in my side for the last two years. As an RE and collective worship coordinator my experiences are related to the promotion of ‘Christian values’ within a church school but I think the lessons I have learnt are valuable for all school leaders.

When I arrived at my current school, in fact from the very day I walked around on my pre application visit, I knew the school promoted good values. There were no shiny value displays, no ‘value of the month’ but I knew that they were there. The evidence was in the children. They were confident and thoughtful, polite and courteous. They clearly loved their school and really cared for everyone in it. There was no doubt in my mind that the school was preparing these children to be good citizens for life in modern Britain. I was sold and two weeks later, much to my delight, I was awarded the job.

As always in any new job, there was change that needed to be made and I made it. The major part of this surrounded preparing the school for its SIAMS inspection, an inspection in which how ‘embedded’ its Christian values were would be tested in great detail. So, up went the shiny value posters, the calendar of monthly value focuses. Class teachers and leaders all across the school made absolutely sure the children were versed in talking about the ‘values.’ The evidence was now not just in the children it was totally in your face. It worked. No inspector in their right mind could have questioned the wealth of evidence of ‘deeply embedded’ values. However, there is a niggle that remains with me… Ian Fletcher ‘head of values’ from W1A keeps coming to mind. If you don’t know what I mean then check out this clip below: –

It is my biggest fear that this is how we sound as schools leaders discussing values, that the box ticking exercise of inspection evidencing makes the word fall into the ‘buzz word’ category of latest fads and that their personal worth to the children will be totally devalued.

I have always been adamant that I didn’t want our school ‘values’ to become just a set of meaningless words the children had to remember to repeat in front of an inspector. It’s a trap so easy to fall into when preparing for inspection.The SIAMS framework talks about values that are ‘lived’ and I really wanted to protect that.

So this is the model I propose for school values. Move away from the list. What your school thinks is most important (what it values) is in your mission statement. The school mission statement and schools core values should support each other completely. First, start with a reading or a song, something that supports your mission statement that is child friendly (ours was obviously a bible reading but there are numerous other readings and poems to pick from). A reading, poem or song, more than a list, is something that the children can revisit and reflect on personally. Something that every time they will find something new in, something from which they can form their own personal values.

Yes, do revisit the words and themes from it (monthly if you have to) but also when they suit what’s happening both in and outside your school. Continue to reinforce any of its themes during school assemblies but get rid of the word ‘values.’ Why on earth do we need to use this word in front of the children other than to make sure they answer the inspector’s questions correctly? Good teachers promote good ways of living without even knowing they are doing it, in assemblies, in class discussion, through thoughtful texts and quotes, not through the use of the word ‘values.’

If you know your school has good SMSC provision, if your collective worship or assemblies support this, be confident. You have the evidence. Your children will demonstrate ‘values’ and be able to explain how their school teaches them to live in depth even if they’ve never heard the word ‘values’. Be brave and risk it. Your values don’t need to be plastered on every wall. Avoid expressions like ‘Today’s value is’, ‘Our monthly value is’, ‘which value is important to you?’ and instead remember that ‘values’ is more than just the latest buzz word. It is about what is important to us personally and about allowing children to develop spiritually, morally, socially and culturally.

If you choose a reading or song to reinforce this revisit it regularly and allow children and staff to reflect on it, and to suggest what in it is important to them. Introduce new themes by asking “why is love important?” “What does it mean to be humble”, “What qualities do you want to show to others?” “What can you practice to help make the world a better place?” And remember, if your children can answer those questions, they will probably show far more evidence of ‘living’ values than any shiny display or a fully remembered list.

Growth Mindset for Teachers

I have always considered myself to have good Growth Mindset. I love challenges, I’m not afraid of change, I know that my potential is limitless and that intelligence is not fixed, I have failed and got up again and again. In my class I have the posters (the ones we all now have) encouraging my class to have exactly the same work ethic. I promote it every day and my class love realising their mistakes and learning from them, trying new things and ‘growing brain cells’. It makes for a really positive and happy class environment. As a teacher, I don’t have to work half as hard because the children are desperate to learn but it’s only recently that I’ve realised that work ethic isn’t where Growth Mindset ends.

We’ve spent a long time recognising that, tragic as it is, our children work in an environment where success is measured by reaching a (sometimes unrealistic) predetermined standard and not by effort. Promoting Growth Mindset in our classrooms helps take away that pressure by encouraging the idea that their intelligence is not fixed and yet how many of us find that, however good the Growth Mindset work ethic of our class, when children mark their own work there is a little hiss of “yessss” and a few fist pumps for every right answer. Children love to share their scores with each other as a measure of how successful they are. This isn’t about them not having Growth Mindset Work Ethic it’s about them not having Growth Mindset as a tool for self-affirmation.

The other day I gave my class a maths test. I asked them to give it 100% effort. At the end of the test I asked them if they had given 100% effort. They told me they had so I congratulated them and asked them to congratulate themselves as that meant they had got 100% in the test. I got them to write 100% on the front of the paper in big coloured letters and then they gave a little fist pump and had a little cheer of “yessss.” Then I read the answers. The difference was amazing. As they went through the paper there were no groans about wrong answers or cheers for right ones. The children knew that I was measuring them by their effort grade not their score and the love of their mistakes came back. At the end they shared with each other their effort score (100% all round) and the number of things they had learnt (their mistakes)

But how often as teachers do we do this for ourselves. Just like the children, we also work in an environment where our success is externally measured by a sometimes unrealistic, pre-determined standard. Stakes are high. Sometimes it is difficult not to fall into the trap of using this to self-affirm. I used to live and die by the grading I got in my observation, by my book scrutiny feedback, by a positive parents evening. Every positive comment I got from a member of management was like a gold star that I gave a little fist pump for and said “yesss” about (under my breath of course). And, sadly, I have worked in environments where the external pressures of Ofsted meant that if you weren’t getting positive feedback from management you were made to feel as though you were somehow failing the children, as if you were a sub-standard teacher or a ‘lower-attainer’. In this sort of environment, teachers fall into the trap of negative self-talk, punishing themselves for not being better, trying to be perfect. Despite all my Growth Mindset work ethic, I have frequently found my confidence crippled through measuring my success as a teacher by ‘score’ or my outputs and not by my effort.

As teachers we can only give our best. As my current head (a champion for teacher well-being and CPD) so frequently says to me: “You are only human. If you’ve given 100%, you’ve done enough.” Just like the children and their test, there will be things to work on, for some more than others. There might even be a whole section of learning that we need extra support on but as long as we recognise those learning opportunities then we are not failing. Teachers, just like children, need to be able to weather the high stakes test/inspection environment. It is therefore vital that leadership works to build teacher confidence by encouraging teachers to self-affirm through positive self-talk, praising their efforts and their learning rather than through their measurable successes or outputs. Even if your staff have incredible Growth Mindset work ethic, it’s being able to self affirm without external validation (from Ofsted or management) that will make for confident teachers and they are invaluable.

 

 

 

 

Workload stress can be alleviated by redirecting what you care about and how you measure your success.

It’s not the workload in teaching that’s the problem, it’s how you filter it. Teaching is a caring profession. By very definition you are a teacher because you care but caring is what can kill it for you. All around us we are surrounded by ways to be better at our job and because we care we listen, we strive, we set ourselves ridiculously high standards. Education is, after all, consumed with the search for bettering knowledge, understanding and skills and we fall into that trap over and over again with our own work, caring relentlessly about our outputs as teachers and chastising ourselves with guilt when things are unfinished or when we’ve not managed to complete a given task to the same standard our level of caring suggests is acceptable. Managers I have worked under have called it ‘being a perfectionist’, ‘being dedicated’, ‘caring too much’ and ‘having too much time on my hands’ but it wasn’t until I came to work at my current school that I  really understood what it all meant.

In teaching there is an enormous amount of work but it isn’t the amount it is how urgent and Important it all feels that makes it seem unmanageable and it feels this way because you care. So many Sunday nights I have said the words ‘because I have to’, ‘because I can’t go into school without this done’ and I genuinely believed it, but over the last year I have found myself questioning myself more and more. Instead I rate every single thing on my to do list by the impact it will have on the children in my class. (I should stress I’m very lucky to have a management who support this). What I have found is that by directing my care towards the children and away from the standard of my work I have found my workload much easier to manage. There’s no less of it, I’m still expected to do lots of work that is administrative but by redirecting my caring I have reduced the stress that comes with the work. If I have completed a task, which has minimal impact, to a standard that my ‘perfectionist’ self would previously be ashamed of, I alleviate the guilt by looking at the impact I am having in class. In the past I worked hours and hours to prove my own performance and for self preservation, to protect myself from the criticism that might occur if something wasn’t done or wasn’t perfect. Now I know that I can always justify my performance if I’ve prioritised the children and their learning.

It takes brave managers to support this and brave teachers to stand up to managers who don’t. Young teachers must be given an environment in which patience, trust and thorough organisation helps grow their self esteem enough that they never feel that their work output or a completed to do list is a measure of their success. We spend so long fostering Growth Mindset in our children but neglect it in our teachers. We must  grow the self esteem of teachers so that they can self affirm through the growth and learning that takes place in their classrooms otherwise the pressures of unfinished work will always make them feel like failures and retention will be impossible.

Keeping the ‘Bonkers’ losing the ‘Bonkers’ hours.

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/spare-us-flagellation-teaching-martyrs

Michael Tidd is right. Working hard is not the same as working long hours. However, I would argue that teachers who claim that working 60 or 70 hours of the week is ‘the nature of the job’ or a ‘necessity of doing the job well’ are not completely wrong. I am very much one of those teachers that Mr Tidd calls ‘bonkers’. Until recently, I spent my evenings and weekends searching for the best resources and making beautiful displays. However, I didn’t do it because I felt I would be worse and my job if I didn’t and I’m very lucky to have a management that are very considerate of workload. I did it because I enjoyed it. It is after all what my phase leader calls doing ‘the fun stuff’ and I consider it very much part of my job. In fact, it’s actually the part of my job I enjoy the most. However, it is also the part that I always thought I only had time to do if I added an extra 20 hours to the week. I was without doubt guilty of being a ‘teacher martyr’ and I regularly showed off my weekend wares, waxing lyrical about the hours I had spent perfecting things. I agree that in doing so I perpetuated the myth that I was somehow better at my job. But I was wrong. I wasn’t. I was massively inefficient. However, in condemning those ‘teacher martyrs’ (like myself), what we shouldn’t do is encourage them to stop doing ‘the fun stuff’, just to do it more efficiently. Being creative is one of the real joys of being a primary teacher and I have recently discovered I don’t need to be a ‘teacher martyr’ to do those things. There are strategies for doing all the extra stuff without adding 20 extra hours to my week.

Firstly, if I could uninvent one thing to help with my teacher workload it would be the internet. For me it became like a black hole that I kept being getting sucked back into. I became like a drug addict searching and searching for my next hit, always going that one step further to make sure I had the best stuff (my previous job in a school with very competitive teachers didn’t help with this). You can easily rack up an extra 10 hours of work just searching. Too much great choice can also easily add to curriculum congestion as you try to squeeze your whole topic Pinterest board into the planning, your work load becomes unmanageable. It’s even worse when a great whole school initiative is spotted by an eager middle leader or management. However, to stop searching completely would be to remove the ‘fun stuff.’ What we have to do is manage the internet better.

Secondly, teacher environments have to be less competitive and more collaborative. Humility surrounding workload is a necessity. It is vital that management don’t advocate the ideas or principles of teachers who work too long. Instead they must create an environment where the best stuff, like good resources, are collected and shared regularly, reducing everyone’s workload. Sharing good practice should never be a competitive environment or encourage extra workload. It should always be about reducing it. Here’s my top tips for teachers and management to limit the workload and to stop being a teacher martyr.

  • Limit yourself to the 3/4 websites that you find have the best resources (Subscribing as a school to a couple of one stop shops like Twinkl or Espresso is a great start)
  •  As a school share creativity between teachers, arranging regular times for staff to have a resources ‘swap shop.’ (Make sure this is not a competitive environment but a ‘giving’ one)
  • Organise resources across your school. In particular, making sure that digital resources are regularly edited and carefully filed so that they are easily searchable and accessible so no one is ever reinventing the wheel. (Don’t let the collection get as vast as the internet)
  • Use middle leaders to manage the resources in their subject, narrowing the selection to the very best rather than widening it.
  • Avoid curriculum congestion. If you find a brilliant new idea, replace old stuff. Don’t continue to add more and more. You can’t keep everything going. Be prepared to ‘cut.’
  • Make sure careful choices are made about which initiatives are rolled out across the whole school.
  • Oh yes, and work through X Factor

Maths Reasoning

Recently went to some excellent training about maths mastery. This was one of the activities that I really liked to encourage the children to explain their mathematical reasoning. Really easy to differentiate and great for making sure that they’ve understood the method of column addition and are using estimation to check their work. reasoning-column-addition (could be adapted for subtraction and multiplication as well)