We are working to remove unnecessary workload for teachers and leaders, so they can focus on supporting their pupils and their own development. - DfE July 2019
Teachers' workload is always a controversial topic. Many outside of the teaching profession are under the impression teachers work 9-3 with oodles of holidays. Little do they realise what goes on beyond school hours.
As Early Years teachers our ‘work’ outside of day to day teaching isn’t piles of marking and responsive feedback, but developing our learning environments in response to the interests and needs of the children on a daily basis is really quite time consuming. Especially if we are to ensure the space and materials we provide offer appropriate challenge and stimulation to allow our children to be able to practise, and rehearse the skills we have taught them. So how can we reduce our work load and maintain a great learning environment?
Reducing workload without having an impact on children’s learning environment
It’s all about clever use of time management. Here are some ‘top tips’ that could help you...
Role play is an area where you could spend hours after school single handily creating a masterpiece. But take this scenario, you notice a child in your class has been showing an interest in and talking about going to the doctors. Rather than planning on changing it after school, create it with the children during the school day. After all it is their learning environment and they need to understand why the changes are being made and how to use the equipment purposefully. This is a great way to demonstrate value in their contributions and teach the knowledge, skills and vocabulary required for successful collaborative imaginative play. You’ll also find their play is much more focussed with them having ownership of something they created.
The new Ofsted inspection Framework places an emphasis on reading, but this doesn’t have to impact on your workload. Pulling children aside for one to one reading is often time consuming and restrictive on adults in the classroom, stopping them from interacting and developing learning. Consider ways you could hear readers in an imaginative and child friendly way. For example, joining children in the book corner and sharing an age appropriate book with them.
Learning journals are one method of collecting evidence to support assessments for the children. Creating these can often take up staff time sticking in evidence or inputting onto an electronic system. Why don’t you review your daily routine to see if there are pockets of time where the children/class are with you and support staff are able to use this time to collate any information for learning journals?
I’ve always been an advocate of promoting independence from day one in my classroom. So often, I go into schools and see adults carrying out tasks because it may be quicker to complete themselves, rather than empowering children to take responsibility or help them.
"If your children are independent, you have provided them with the belief that they are competent and capable of taking care of themselves"
Jim Taylor Ph. D - The Power of Prime
Snack time, for example is an ideal opportunity to encourage independence. Children can wash the fruit and set up the area without the need for an adult to support them. By creating washing up stations once the children have had their snacks they can wash up their equipment ready for the next person to use it.
Tidy up time is another area where, time invested at the start of the year carefully modelling the expectations within each learning zone and how it is tidied away reaps the reward throughout the year. You won’t spend time after school having to tidy zones or return items to the correct place because the children will have done it at tidy up time.
This can be done by creating an environment supported by photos and silhouetting in activity zones that will encourage children to return equipment to the correct place. HfL’s award winning publication Places to Play Every Day provides photographic examples of how this could look in your school or setting.
So many times I go into schools and see support staff washing up paint pots and brushes or sinks piled high with them at the end of the school day. Again with some careful modelling this is something that can easily be carried out by the children. Investing in a dish drying rack and pot brushes supports them with this.
Ensuring equipment like dustpans, brushes and child size brooms are easily available in the classroom and outside continually promotes the ethos of tidying up and respecting their learning environment.
To make sure that independence is promoted in your school or setting it is imperative that all members of the team understand support and promote the ethos of independence you create in your learning environment. Take time explaining to your team the reasons behind these expectations. I’m sure they’d all agree at the end of the day they came to work in school to support and develop outcomes for young children not tidy up after them!
Whether you’re an NQT who is entitled to the equivalent of a full day or only get half a day as a full time teacher it is important this time is used wisely. PPA stands for planning, preparation and assessment therefore you can use it for any of the aforementioned. Good EYFS practise would be to ensure all three are covered when applying the assessment cycle laid out in development matters. The HfL Early Years team have also created Principles of Planning to support practitioners in using effective planning for provision on a daily basis based on best practice principles that don’t always need heavy documentation.
DfE Work reduction Toolkit - www.gov.uk/guidance/reducing-workload-in-your-school