How my school takes the stress off teachers
My school has found ways to reduce the workload burden on teachers – while also helping us become more effective in the classroom.
We all know that stress is a problem in teaching, with workloads and other pressures affecting the health of many across the UK. But I’ve experienced a variety of different approaches to teaching during my career, and I’ve seen that working long hours doesn’t necessarily equal better performance in the classroom.
At my current school, Torquay Academy, I’ve noticed that staff are far more positive about the impact they’re having on their students than those in previous schools. While it’s difficult to measure staff wellbeing in a statistical sense, staff absence levels are at a record low, which suggests that stress levels are manageable. Our recent Ofsted inspection [pdf] noted that staff take pride in being part of the school and “overwhelmingly” support the principal’s leadership. Meanwhile, our results have improved for the third year running.
A common approach to lessons gives teachers control
Our teachers are allowed to talk, and our students are expected to listen. Influenced by Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion strategies, there is a strong focus on teachers embedding structured routines into their lessons so students are clear about what is expected of them. Teachers are almost universally given their subject specialism to teach. Within the structure of the lesson, teachers are encouraged to allow their passion for the subject to drive the narrative of the lesson, instead of spending hours planning bite-sized activities.
There is a strong correlation between the introduction of these methods in 2014 and the improved results. As teachers have gained increased confidence in their use, results have increased year-on-year, with significantly more students leaving school with five A*-C in 2017 (75%) than in 2014 (28%). Of course, there have been other factors, but placing what happens within the classroom at the centre of all we do has certainly been the most significant.
We have an efficient whole-school behaviour policy
We believe the most effective behaviour management tool in any teacher’s repertoire is praise. Success by students at our school is celebrated at every possible opportunity, and those who get it right are noticed and acknowledged.
When a student’s behaviour impacts on others, the issue is dealt with swiftly. Crucially, it’s not down to individual teachers to set or follow up detentions; this is managed centrally by an assistant principal dedicated to behaviour. Teachers simply need to speak to the child after school, and make a phone call home to inform parents.