Workload: the freedom to make a difference

Dec. 6, 2018
Aisha Raymond

Aisha Raymond

Deputy Headteacher, Brettenham Primary School

Last year, 35,000 teachers retired from the profession ahead of time.

According to a recent Tes report, UK teachers are working some of the longest days in the world, with some working more than 60 hours a week.

This led me to the following question: am I part of the problem or part of the solution? With this in mind, I decided to tackle workload at my school.

Fast feedback

When I took up the post of deputy headteacher at Brettenham Primary School, my main responsibility was leading curriculum across the school.

I soon noticed that there was no clear marking policy; for example, in Key Stage 2 literacy there was no marking in books, where the rest of the school used a very detailed policy which took a lot of time.

Alongside this, the Ofsted guidelines changed to state that there was no expectation around marking. I saw this as a green flag - we’d been given permission to do things differently.

As a result, I attended a school-to-school course on 'Fast Feedback': the delivery of feedback through conferencing, with children regularly self and peer-assessing their work against an objective-led success criteria. I immediately thought that this was brilliant and knew it would work in my school.

Achieving buy-in

I had presumed that this change would be a quick win and wouldn't require much engagement to get teachers onside. However, I was surprised to find that many teachers were against Fast Feedback. They wanted to validate themselves; to prove that they were doing a good job through their marking.

I realised that the best way to get the teachers onside was to ensure that they were driving this initiative forward themselves. It wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t trust each other - we had to work together.

I therefore designed a strategy to ensure that Fast Feedback was embedded successfully across the school, choosing a teacher from each key stage to take on the course and claim responsibility for implementing the process.

We then trained our other teachers to develop success criteria and broke this down into a pupil-friendly toolkit so they too could take ownership of their learning and effectively assess their own work and that of their classmates.

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Impact

This peer and self-assessment has totally changed the way children and teachers work within our school. Children now take ownership of their learning and the classroom is buzzing.

Children can measure their success without any delay as feedback is provided instantly. This had led to them developing a growth mindset; they have become more resilient and see mistakes as an opportunity to learn.

Because pupils are encouraged to talk about their learning, they have become almost like mini-teachers. Fast Feedback has also helped as a tool to improve speaking and listening and our many EAL pupils have benefited from oral feedback as they find it easier to interpret and understand.

Impact on staff

All of this has had a great impact on staff too. Teachers are able to identify mistakes in real time and then creatively adapt their resources and approaches to the situation which has resulted in fantastic improvements across reading, writing and maths.

Morale has also increased around the school, which has had a positive impact on staff wellbeing. Staff are working harder during the day but have their evenings to themselves and their weekends to spend with their families.

I love my school because teachers are given the freedom to teach in a way that they feel meets the children's needs. We’ve taken back autonomy and we feel free to do what’s right for the pupils in our school.

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