For over a decade, the UK has been gripped by the worst ever teacher shortage. There are multiple contributing factors, including the ever-increasing number of school-aged children; funding cuts; the lure of better paid roles overseas; and everyday pressures of teaching and a growing administrative workload, largely due to the burden of performance measurement requirements. Data shows that less than 40% of teachers’ time is now being spent on teaching.
The discussion around maintaining a good balance between teaching workloads and admin burdens isn’t new. Our own report published in 2017 revealed that 97% of teachers were suffering, or had suffered, mentally or physically, as a direct result of workload. On top of this, 43% of teachers cited workload as the reason they planned to quit the profession within the next five years, and nearly half of the teachers under the age of 35 stated they were planning to quit due to workload, poor work-life balance and concerns for their mental health.
The need for cultural change
Unsurprisingly, with so little time left for teaching, 65% of teachers say they feel positive about having more technology available to help them work efficiently. The speed of innovation in the 21st century means that there’s now a wide range of possible tools to ease a teacher’s workload, but the willingness and relative speed at which these are adopted in many schools can prove overwhelming for teachers, who need to learn how to best integrate it into their day-to-day teaching.
Before significant change can be seen in schools, there needs to be a cultural shift to:
- Accept that good teachers and schools make a difference and technology is aimed to support them, not replace them
- Avoid technology for technology’s sake
- Build a technical infrastructure to help technology run efficiently
- Develop a culture to help staff innovate and adapt to change
- Ensure sufficient training is given to staff to help them in their roles
Technology has the potential to bring about material change but, in order for it to make a difference and empower teachers, it must be approached as a means to an end, and not an end itself. Any technology introduced should serve a purpose and the benefits it offers must outweigh the time and energy required for training and integration.
Easing the burden with edtech
Rather than adding another layer to workload, technology can help ease teachers’ workloads, through automating certain administrative tasks, as well as creating systems that help teachers avoid doubling up on work. Technology can also ease the pains of reporting; reports are frequently requested at short notice for multiple teaching groups and dedicated programmes can help teachers bring together lots of information from a specified time period, ultimately obtaining better results all round.
Through our work with MATs, we know that it can be problematic for schools to manage data from many different teams such as finance, operations and teaching staff. This, coupled with the added pressures driven by league tables and performance indicators, shows that benchmarking performance is becoming more and more important – especially with the growing competition for enrolment and the increasing span of control of MATs.
The technology to support teachers is available, it works, and its value is starting to be recognised. But, our research shows that the benefits of technology are not yet fully, or widely, understood and there is much more work to be done. At a time when the government is investing in teacher training and recruitment, it makes sense for greater emphasis to be placed on the power of technology and its potential to significantly impact the wellbeing of our educators. When the correct training is provided and infrastructure put in place, edtech offers a variety of benefits, for staff retention and recruitment, as well as the quality of education our teachers are delivering.
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