How to easily reduce teacher workload

Written by Dan

Last updated

Teachers are asked to complete hundreds of complex tasks every term. Here out our top 10 tips to reduce your workload, lower stress and increase the fun!

1. Focus on feedback rather than marking.

As teachers, we know that marking is probably the most time-consuming thing we do. Research has shown, however, that it has minimal impact on the child’s development. Some schools have ditched formal teacher marking entirely and rely on peer/student marking, verbal feedback from the teacher and assessment for learning (AFL) to shape their evaluation of each child.

If it has little impact, why are teachers slaving away for 2 hours daily? In a day and age where schools are leaving teachers at an alarming rate, shouldn’t they be looking to decrease workload? Our advice for those teachers still doing it is to get it done as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible, and move on to things that make a difference. That leads us nicely to something that does make a massive difference in the child’s development.

2. Plan less

When was the last time you looked at a plan during a lesson? If you are an ECT, maybe it was today? If you are an experienced teacher, perhaps it was two years ago? The amount that we rely on plans goes way down as we get more experience as a teacher.

Planning is fundamental to the experience that we give children while at school. It can greatly benefit our teaching when done well, but it can also be a hindrance if teachers are expected to plan too much. How can you plan too much? It is possible. We must always plan high-quality, engaging activities for our classes, but when you write down every word you will say in a plan before the lesson, you are being way too thorough.

Your plan should lay out the lesson’s structure, essential questions, opportunities for AFL, and a reflection time on what has been learnt. If you are writing more than this, consider whether you need it. If you are planning slides for your lesson, a lot of the vital info you need can go on the slides to point you in the right direction during the lesson. Remember to write less on your plan and more on your slides.

3. Online resources

If you want to reduce your workload as a teacher, websites such as Twinkle, TES and Teachers Pay Teachers can be a saving grace. They can provide you with high-quality, age-related plans and resources for free or a meagre monthly fee.

Yes as teachers, we do want to be planning our lessons, but when everything is getting on top of you, do not be afraid to reach out to these valuable resources. Especially for aspects of our curriculum such as guided reading, topic and science. The wide range of exciting resources can help to bring to life even the dullest topic lesson or mundane science experiment.

Finally, they can be a MASSIVE help when it comes to displays. No one wants to create a new show at the start of every new topic so that Twinkl can provide one for you!

4. Use your TA (if you have one)

Teaching Assistants can be a teacher’s best friend. They will help support, teach small groups and emotionally encourage your class just as much as the teacher. They must be valued. As a former TA, I know how disheartening it can be when a class teacher does not correctly use your skill set.

Ask your TA how they could be used better in the classroom; 99% of TAs will have thought about this before and will know exactly how they want to be used. Find their strengths and then provide them opportunities to use these tools. In my case, I loved PE and used to work as a sports coach, so my class teacher asked if I would like to teach the odd PE lesson. I, of course, jumped at the chance. Thus giving myself more experience teaching a whole class and also helping to take some teaching time off the class teachers’ shoulders and lightening their workload.

5. Give SLT feedback on workload

As teachers, we understand the hierarchy at school and know that we are not the top dogs. For the working environment to be productive SLTs, need to ensure that they have created an atmosphere where critical and constructive feedback on school processes is recommended.

If you, as a teacher, feel like your workload is too much, then you need to let SLT know. I recommend making a list of all of the current expectations that you have placed on yourself at school. Once complete, analyse this list and see if there are any components you do not think should exist. Are you doing someone else’s job for them? Have you taken on more responsibility without being asked?

If the answer is yes and you are currently doing jobs, you are uncomfortable with; you need to approach your line manager. It is their job to ensure you feel supported in your role. Your feedback on this information is up to you and your school’s situation. Try a carefully worded email if a face-to-face chat is too much for you. You should not have to suffer in silence.

6. Know when good is enough

If I had a quid for every time I heard teachers call themselves perfectionists, I would be able to fund the English education system for the next few years! There are times at school when that can be a good thing, planning and assessing, for example. There do come times at school, though, when you must know when something is adequate.

Rather than spend endless hours at home slaving away over your guided reading plan for the next half term, your time might be best spent ensuring that you get an actual rest from your work. Teacher well-being has to be a priority for all of us. It can be a slippery slope for teachers when things get too much.

You are much more likely to succeed if you aim for most tasks to be done to a good standard and a few important ones to perfection. This is what has got Katy and I through our teaching careers. Pick your focus areas and do them to the best of your ability, then ensure the rest of your work is good enough.

7. Share work evenly

This one may seem simple, but in a lot of schools, it isn’t. When working in a school with more than one class in each year group, having a shared relationship with the other teachers is essential. It is ludicrous for each teacher to be planning their whole curriculum. Split it up into manageable sections and designate who is planning which parts.

My year partner and I split it because each of us will plan two weeks of English while the other plans the Maths, and we will split up the rest of the subjects each half term, so we know for the whole half term which is planning what. This means that the teachers’ responsibility is the resources, slides and plan for that topic. By making sure the split is even, we can drastically lower the workload on our shoulders. As teachers, we need each other; this is a big area where we can help each other.

8. Manage time effectively

This one may seem too obvious to be put on this list, but as teachers, times we need a kick up the bum to evaluate ourselves and see that there are areas that we could do differently. Let me ask you a question. How many times in PPA have you sat there with the other teachers and chatted for half an hour? I know I have. Now I’m not saying that we need not do that ever. Being social as a teacher is one of the big things that has helped me survive over the last few years.

I want you to realise, though, that every minute you waste your PPA, you will not get back. SLT won’t turn around and say, ‘oh well, you didn’t get your work done in your PPA time, so here is 2 hours more. We all know it does not work like that. Any work we don’t get done will be expected to be done in our own time, thus increasing our workload outside of school.

We need to think about whether we would instead do the work at school in this allocated time or at home when we could be watching the latest Game of Thrones. I know what I would instead do.

9. Research teaching schemes

Now this one is a bit controversial. Some schools love schemes; some hate them. I understand both sides of the argument. The most significant benefit of teaching school that can come in to replace a teacher’s planning is our workload. For example, my school uses the Maths No Problem scheme across the school. We can use all their resources and plans for our maths lessons. It does not remove all the work we still need to teach, but it helps massively.

If your school does not use schemes, maybe you could research some yourself and approach your headteacher with the idea.

10. How can SLT help with workload?

I wanted to finish with this question because it can have the most significant impact. If you are a member of your Senior Leadership Team, then this is for you. SLTs have the opportunity to influence all areas of the school day. Specific areas that can increase teacher workload and stress include behaviour management, school timetable, resources and purchasing (to name a few).

  • Behaviour management is something teachers have to implement in every single lesson. The techniques that teachers use are often recommended by SLT in a behaviour management policy. This protects the school from questions from parents or governors about how things are done. SLT must ensure that the behaviour management policy works to give teachers the power to control their classrooms positively and effectively. We all know that dealing with constant behaviour issues can get in the way of good learning.
  • The school timetable is often something that is locked in place and very inflexible. SLT must ensure that It has been created to allow teachers the optimum amount of teaching time and breaks. If that means starting from scratch and changing how it works, do it! It must be fair for all teachers. I have seen in some schools where timetables tend to favour KS2. Meaning KS1 have a hugely long afternoon and too much time to fill. Their workload increases as they search for activities to fill the time.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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