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8 Ways Senior Leaders Can Reduce Workload And Solve The Recruitment And Retention Crisis

Many words have been spoken on addressing teachers' work-life balance, but it's well beyond time to take action

  • 8 Ways Senior Leaders Can Reduce Workload And Solve The Recruitment And Retention Crisis

“Who wants to be a teacher these days?”

“I know, but it would only be in the absolute worst-case scenario.”

I sighed as I listened to these two sixth-form students discussing university and career choices.

“Er, hello, I’m right here!” I said gloomily, doing a pathetic little wave in their direction.

“Sorry Steph but it’s true, no one wants to do your job any more.”

I nodded, knowing full well they were right.

But why?

Why is teaching no longer the respectable, sought-after career it once was?

Recent figures have shown that since 2010, there has been a 30% decline in applications for Initial Teacher Training.

Tens of thousands of people have stopped applying to be teachers. It’s now seen as ‘the worst-case scenario’ of jobs, one that you would apply for ‘if all else fails’.

Call to action

Articles about retention and workload are often well-researched, informative pieces, but do you know what annoys me? Nothing is actually being done about it.

Words alone aren’t going to make things better for teachers in our schools.

Words aren’t going to stop the droves of talented professionals walking out of the school gates for the very last time. Words aren’t going to stop the number of teachers taking medication just so that they can face the day ahead.

Words couldn’t stop Laurian Bold from taking her own life after being given so much work she only slept for three hours a night.

It’s time for schools to fight back and address this recruitment and retention issue head-on.

So what can senior leaders do to improve the situation in their schools?

1. Recognise that work/life balance is a problem in every school.
Don’t walk around with your head in the clouds, assuming things are okay for everyone. Look out for the warning signs of a teacher feeling the pressure and do something about it before things get out of hand.

2. Put work/life balance at the forefront of decision-making.
The new marking policy; how much is it going to impact on the day-to-day lives of teachers? How can useful feedback be given to children in a way that doesn’t mean hours of marking for staff?

3. Lead by example – go home at a reasonable hour at least once a week and encourage your teachers to do the same.
Why not make it a Friday rule that everyone has to be gone by 4.30pm? No you can’t make them, but you’re putting strategies in to place. Is it really acceptable for teachers to start work before 7am?

4. Give and you shall receive – nativities, assemblies, sports days, graduations.
Let your staff go and see their children in their proudest moments or celebrate a friend’s wedding on a random Friday. Arrange for cover or teach the class yourself. This shows your staff you value their life outside of school.

5. Address work/life balance in the interview process.
You want applicants to know that you consider their wellbeing to be an important part of their career. They will be more inclined to apply for a job if you appear to support teachers having a life outside of the job. Ask them how they ensure their own work-life balance in the interview.

6. Give new teachers the skills they need.
Too often, teachers are not taught time management and productivity strategies. What training could you offer to help them learn how to prioritise and delegate? If you don’t feel you can teach this yourself, hire a specialist to come in and talk to staff.

7. Give teachers time
If they’re struggling, offer to give them some time to get themselves back on track. It might be an afternoon to get their data in order or to finish planning for next half term.

8. Listen and be approachable
Many members of SLT claim to have an ‘open door policy’, but do you really? Clearly there’ll be times when you can’t be disturbed, but find the time to invite people in. Give them your undivided attention and help them with problems they might be having. Lending your ear can be all that is needed.

Too often young, inexperienced teachers are told that the heavy workload is ‘just teaching’. Why are we proud of that? Be strong; make your school different. Don’t let it be like the rest; stand up for teachers’ workload and you’ll have a dedicated, well-balanced team that will thank you for it. It really is down to you.

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