Bureaucracy. Once the Conservatives positioned themselves as its fiercest opponent, accusing those on the left of forcing more and more of it on an unwilling population, every reform presented as a means to reduce ‘red tape’ and ‘interference’. Yet for those working in education today, bureaucracy seems to be the main result of the Conservatives’ ‘anti-bureaucratic’ measures, and it’s only getting worse with an ever increasing emphasis on data in England’s schools.
It’s a multifaceted problem. As Mary Bousted, leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has pointed out, the “average working week for a teacher is now 60 hours and that average includes the school holidays”. This time is mostly spent on “bureaucratic paper filling, data driven, mind-numbingly useless work” that exists solely for the purposes of accountability, rather than actually teaching students. This looks likely to increase with the introduction of Progress 8, and both drives and exacerbates the teacher shortage crisis: prospective teachers are put off the profession by the sheer amount of work, those already in the profession are leaving with each added wave of reform and increase in pressure, while those who remain are left with even more to get to grips with.
Some figures to illustrate this: of nearly 900 teachers surveyed by the ATL, 93% believed the excessive workload would alienate people interested in joining the profession, while 91% believed a poor work-life balance would also have the same effect. 83% had considered leaving the profession, with an overwhelming number of would-be leavers saying it was due to an increased amount of work, a situation 74% of respondents believe is made worse by teacher shortages. These problems are all clearly deeply connected, and the net result is an education system under deep strain and undergoing ever great change, while those bearing the brunt of this attempt to do what they were employed to do: the vital job of providing an excellent education to our children.
Significant change will only come from above, with a change of government or an entirely new approach to the education system from our current leaders, or below, with those employed in the sector choosing to challenge the status quo through industrial action. Educational technology can’t even really provide a middle ground given vast structural changes are clearly needed, yet it can help ease the burden for those currently feeling the effects of increased bureaucracy, an overbearing workload, and the teacher shortage crisis. At SAM Learning we see reducing teacher time as a central requirement to ensuring that quality teaching can take place in the classroom, minimising the time spent producing and marking homework and monitoring student performance is key to this.