How to reduce teacher workload - managing and planning tips

‘How to reduce teacher workload - managing and planning tips’

As you already know, being a teacher requires excellent time management skills. Some of these skills entail envisioning the long-term goals of the classroom in a sequence, looking to the immediate educational needs of the students, and minimising the volume of paperwork that comes with every assignment. Between writing lesson plans, grading exams and actually teaching, teachers often feel it is just not possible to pack everything into the allotted time frame.

The primary school teacher workload, which this guide concentrates on specifically, is no less sizable. Here we will outline how to reduce teacher workload and how to manage your teacher workload more effectively.

The workload can affect your class/students: prioritise.

Time management is important and consequential. Without effective prioritising, burnout is surely inevitable, as will be the ineffective use of you and your students’ time. Prioritising is about arranging workload based on both the importance of the tasks as well the resulting impact of the completed tasks. Teachers must be able to assess whether projects can be put on hold if the outcomes are not as impactful as others.

Priorities are not as cut and dry as putting maths and English first, and getting to do creative projects if there is enough time left. This kind of wishful thinking and conspicuous lack of planning can lead to class burnout – for both teacher and student. Remember: within certain contexts, an impactful art or outdoor activity can be just as stimulating as academic lesson plans.

How to manage teacher workload

Before approaching the task of reducing teacher workload, you need to decide on what are the most important tasks that need to be done each day. We’ve outlined some of these common tasks below.

Setting objectives

The National Curriculum for Key Stages 1 and 2 in Britain has certain statutory objectives that need to be met by certain years between 4 and 11 years of age - see in particular pages 21 onwards for an example of these statutory requirements for literacy and numeracy. The sequence of lessons for a term is an important step here.

Time management

Newbies and grizzled veterans alike come to learn that you need to find a system for incorporating all aspects of the day - marking, feedback, tidying etc. All of these tasks factor into our aim of finding ways to reduce teacher workload. Here are some tips to that end:

  • Find out which aspects of school time you can control. In some schools, teachers discover they can change the scheduling of class periods, extracurricular activities that take students away from the classroom, planning time, and outside interruptions.
  • Schedule solid blocks of teaching time for each day. You might hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign outside your class door during those times if you’re feeling courageous. Also, get school leadership’s help in scheduling extracurricular programs around lessons.
  • Plan for smooth transitions between lessons and always try to have materials close by for each lesson or activity.
  • Assign homework to extend practice time. Homework should allow students to practice skills they have already learned.
  • Necessary breaks. We’re afraid to say it, but you should also consider how and when and for how long you schedule your breaks to the W/C for maximum efficiency.
  • Improve student attendance. Attendance has a big effect on teaching and learning time. Impress upon parents the importance of good attendance and teach an actual lesson on how it hurts to miss school. Call parents not to schedule their child’s medical or dental appointments during school as much as possible if you’re feeling keen.

Delegating Tasks

Shrewd classroom teachers know how to delegate. Aides, volunteers, and students can handle many classroom tasks and save you enormous amounts of time. Learn to use these valuable helpers, and they too can help with cutting the overall teacher workload.

If you are one of those fortunate teachers to have found yourself with a full- or part-time aide, draw on their special strengths and abilities. Aides can work with small groups or tutor individuals. They can make instructional games and resources, keep bulletin boards current, monitor seating plans, read stories to the class, and assist you in testing. They can also help with clerical and housekeeping duties (those the children would not be able to do for themselves). These aides’ assistance with school trips, special activities, and class parties is to, some extent, essential. Aid your aide to become increasingly responsible, visible, and involved in the classroom.

Adult volunteers are another valuable asset. Volunteers generally can do anything aides do — with your supervision and guidance, of course. Volunteer programs not only give teachers much-deserved help, they can also improve home-school relations. Parents, grandparents, businesspersons, and other volunteers become attuned to the issues facing your school, and supportive of better budgets and improved opportunities. Also, they learn to play an active role in educating children.

Organising supplies

One of the most fulfilling moments is to walk into a classroom that has been personalised with some of you and your class’ excellent arts and crafts skills. There are some fantastic creative and organisational ways of imagining your space.

If you’re overwhelmed with decisions, it helps not to overcomplicate things. You ideally would like some stylish pots and trays for easy access to pens and pencils and some nice boxes for students’ books. See our new piece on ‘Teacher organisation tips, resources and planning ideas’ for more [LINK].

Prioritise work/life balance

It goes without saying but your health is supremely important - without it, you cannot continue for your kids. If you cannot incorporate eight to nine hours of rest a night, a nutritious and balanced diet which is rich in the vitamins and minerals you need for your specific body and age, and varied exercise at least twice a week, then try to; treat them as immovable and non-negotiable. This work/life balance is not about indulgent self-interest, but rather how well you can teach and how much energy and enthusiasm you can bring to your class.

How to reduce teacher workload

Here are some quick-fire tips:

Cut down on marking

There are many ways to cut down on long and tedious assessment workload after school: assess verbally in class with the children, for example, by asking questions from each and every child on a topic of importance. Second, have enjoyable formative assessments like mini-quizzes that students can self-mark or can have marked by their peers with your supervision.

Behaviour management

Behaviour management is time-consuming and adds to your workload, especially when your school does not have dedicated pastoral or behavioural staff to deal with children that are determined to put all the attention on them. A classroom is a space where all students have the right to be safe, secure and to learn.

It can help to have a calm, zero-tolerance policy about sending kids out of the class to cool off - preferably some place where they won’t be able to distract others in the corridor. This way you can continue with your lesson.

Ask for help

Although in certain, toxic-leaning workplaces asking for help may be used against you and your ability to do your job, there is often little shame that you need help with certain aspects of workload - or whatever it may be. You may want to frame your request for help in an ordinary chat about the issues and not a direct appeal. Asking for help is not easy, but there are some better ways to go about it.

explaining that colleagues are probably happy to help.

Lesson planning

This is a big one. There are many ways to reduce your teacher workload – but overall, it’s working smarter not harder. Working ‘less hard’ may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important to do so because teaching as a calling is important. The result is that we push ourselves–and are pushed by others–to be as close as we can be to perfection. This may not be our best thinking and is probably unsustainable in the long-term.

As you will know, having a good plan in place will save your sanity and your time. Pango has dozens of lesson plans for shorter or longer periods of time with your children, based on how quick or slow you know they will take for certain activities. The website itself is a neat way to structure and sequence a whole term of lessons. You can use the calendar to reorganise your schemes of work, and everything is controllable including the standards and objectives you wish your class to meet. 

Setting these Standards and Curriculum objectives over the course of the year can be used to see how many lessons you’ve taught to a customisable standard.  This can be especially important when ensuring a tight fit to the formal, statutory standards required by the National Curriculum. If not, you can use Pango’s collection of Standards.