Turning to tech

Andy Makeham (pictured) tells us how teachers can turn to technology for more time in the classroom

Teacher’s workloads have become such an issue that at the last Conservative Party Conference, Secretary of State Nicky Morgan declared that reducing the burden on teachers was her ‘top priority’.

Teachers in England spend just a third of their time actually teaching despite working longer hours than their European peers*. To tackle this situation, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg teamed up with Morgan to launch the Workload Challenge programme, asking for teachers’ experiences and opinions on how to reduce bureaucracy which is preventing them from actually doing their job. 

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has also taken measures to address the problem by producing a 10-point plan to reduce teacher workload. One of these points, which I think is key, is reviewing ICT planning and reporting systems. Improving IT systems and programs to make them more user-friendly and efficient was also raised by teachers in response to the Workload Challenge programme. 

Technology is one of the easiest and quickest ways to implement new ways of working that will allow teachers to fulfil their non-teaching duties efficiently, enabling them to spend more time in the classroom and supporting learners. 

Quality software providers can help FE providers with something easy like switching from using multiple IT systems to one single system, designed specifically for their sector. This is a simple but effective way of instantly eliminating any data being duplicated and improving information sharing and transparency. 

Data re-entry was highlighted in the ASCL plan as something regarded by teachers as an unnecessary and bureaucratic task in all areas of their work. Compass already works with 95% of colleges in the UK and has seen a continued increase in demand for single, centralised student monitoring and support systems, such as ProMonitor, which address this issue. 

With a single system, data from various sources, such as enrolment and electronic registers, can be automatically pulled into one place. This could also include modules such as electronic markbooks and individual learner plans, giving a holistic view of each student across all their learning streams. At the click of a button, this would make it easier to track progress, plan assessment schedules and deliver effective support, while reducing paper work.

An effective IT system will allow teachers to enter the data once and then re-use it, for example to generate reports for parents, which can then be viewed online by parents/carers. An integrated report writing module will offer sample reports which can be altered accordingly and customised with data pulled in from a variety of IT systems. Streamlining the reporting system, for example is one area where valuable staff hours can be saved.

Centrally stored information is easily shared among key staff, removing the time-consuming processes of sourcing and distributing data on request. This transparency also makes it easier to spot potential issues and risks, which enables intervention/preventative measures to take place earlier, resulting in better support for learners. 

While more and more schools and colleges are turning to technology to cut unnecessary workloads to keep teachers in the classrooms, these organisations could still save more time by better understanding how they can use IT to their advantage. 

Andy Makeham is Managing Director, Compass Computer Consultants, part of Advanced Computer Software Group plc.