A new survey of teachers’ workload challenges has found that marking and data collation continue to be a major source of concern and stress for teachers in England.
The survey of more than 800 school staff by GL Assessment revealed that over a third (38%) of teachers think that their school does not take workload matters seriously and is not acting upon the advice of the DfE.
Teachers said that addressing marking (38%) and reducing the collation of data (32%) would have the biggest impact on their workload, improve their wellbeing, and allow them to spend more time in the classroom.
The research showed that teachers spend an average of 6 hours and 48 minutes testing and assessing students every week. Across a 39-week school year that is the equivalent of more than 265 hours (or 44 days) when they could be teaching if they had a more effective assessment system in place. Three in 10 (30%) admitted they spend more time recording, analysing and monitoring data than they do preparing for lessons.
Almost seven in 10 (68%) teachers think their school could do more to make assessments less time-consuming. Three quarters (75%) of teachers surveyed said their school expects them to coordinate and oversee assessments themselves.
However, teachers do accept that data is essential in the classroom. The survey found the majority (61%) of teachers think that accurate assessment data on students helped them to do their job more effectively. Less than a fifth (18%) disagree.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Data is often cited by teachers as one of the key areas which drives excessive workload, but there needs to be nuance here. It’s not that teachers are opposed to data. They recognise the value of useful, accessible information that supports and shapes the learning of their pupils and shines a light on areas pupils may get stuck on.
“There are three steps we need to take with data. We must stop using bad data – full stop. We need to stop using good data in ways which are unhelpful or unsound. And we must all undertake to use good data wisely, being discerning about what can and can’t be inferred and knowing the limits of that data.”
Greg Watson, Chief Executive of GL Assessment, agreed: “Some schools are unnecessarily adding to teacher workload by insisting on too much assessment and record-keeping, wasting energy on admin when it should be focussed on turning good data into better teaching and learning. With the right choice of reliable and insightful assessment, most children should only need to be formally assessed a few times a year, and assessment then becomes a time-saver, rather than yet another admin burden.”
Kieran Scanlon, Headteacher at Sir Robert Woodard Academy, said he was not surprised so many teachers in GL Assessment’s YouGov poll agreed that addressing data issues would have a positive impact on their workload. “I think a lot of the workload issues are around how schools do assessment. Where it’s done well, where it has a genuine impact and gives teachers good information about who they’re teaching, everybody appreciates that. But where you are doing something that doesn’t have an obvious benefit to anyone other than external accountability systems, I don’t think people are interested in it.”
Most teachers, he said, are prepared to put in a lot of work if it means they get better as a teacher and their students do really well, but senior leaders need to give them the time and space to do that: “There are a number of small steps you can take that will make a big difference. ‘Assessment’ is a big word, so break it down into its various forms and give clarity to what you’re doing and why. Be empowering, be focussed and be honest. Good assessment ensures teachers have the information they need – and good assessment has played a big part in reducing teacher workload and changing round the fortunes of our school."
Maria Roberts, Director of School Improvement at the Woodard Academy Trust, agreed and said that her MAT was very conscious that it had to address workload issues if it wanted to help recruitment and retention. Tackling too much assessment was a key part of that. “You have to be absolutely ruthless as a trust to cut out any superfluous system that isn’t useful and doesn’t give you good information. It’s really important to ensure that no teacher feels they are doing assessment just for the sake of it.”
Sharing information with parents
- When it comes to communicating with parents, teachers say there are advantages of having assessment data to share.
- Three in five (61%) said that their school shared printouts of its assessment reports with parents.
- However, over half (57%) think that parents don't really understand the way their school reports on their child's progress with just a third (34%) of parents supporting the out-of-school interventions suggested are initiated in the home.
- Almost half (48%) say assessment data does make it easier to understand the progress of their students, focus on dealing with specific interventions and ensure that no one gets left behind.
- Ofsted was cited by many teachers as a sizable problem, with almost half (48%) saying that the school inspector’s new framework on data and assessments was confusing.
A free copy of GL Assessment’s report, ‘Crunched by numbers? How effective data can reduce teacher workload’, is available to download at gl-assessment.co.uk/workload
Notes to editors
Research was commissioned by GL Assessment and carried out online by YouGov among a random sample of 801 UK teaching professionals between 26 June and 11 July 2019.
About GL Assessment
GL Assessment is the largest provider of formative assessments to UK schools. It specialises in assessments that help to reveal students’ potential, track their progress, and identify any barriers to learning they might have. www.gl-assessment.co.uk.