The Universal Panacea? #BlogSync by @TeacherToolkit

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Time Saving for Teachers


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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TOPIC: “The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime.”

My panacea is a very simple idea to cure all teachers from that number one problem that stops them from doing their jobs better… What I’d like to give back to you and all teachers and schools across the land, is ‘time’!


Now, easier said that done and by far, I profess, it’s no new idea here. This (panacea) is something that I do think we all have the power to do in our current schools. With careful planning and astute feasibility studies, a leadership team could make this possible. However, the shift would be need to be undertaken by all for it to become embedded practice and accepted by the wider community. (What I mean by this, is parents, the students themselves, the local council, shopkeepers and local businesses.)

I know some schools do this already, albeit supported by a creative Headteacher and supportive leadership team, but what I’d like to suggest, is a simple strategy for all schools to implement.

“…With careful planning and astute feasibility studies, a leadership team could make this possible…”

Give teachers back the time for training, development and reflection. (Not for marking!)


I want to take you back 20 years ago to university, or at least when I was last there! A very old-fashioned idea that I know still exists today, and long before even I was part of the concept. You may or may not remember, every Wednesday afternoon, during term-time, all lecturing and studying ceased. At this time, the afternoon was used for sporting teams to travel to various other colleges, universities and sporting fixtures across the regions. This was the norm and an expected part of social development as a young adult. The time set aside an opportunity for those to enjoy sporting endeavours or for those who simply needed the afternoon for reading, studying and more often than not, relaxing!

Without really thinking about this back in 1993, it worked. I was a cog in the machine. Turning up to fixtures every Wednesday throughout the academic year, I was not really looking at the bigger picture, not understanding why like-minded students had ceased their studies in order to kick a ball around a muddy field or pick up their hockey-stick or paddling oars to go to battle against the opposition on the Thames…

“…I was a cog that linked up to every other cog in order to make the mechanisms work….”

Why would I have thought like this? The machine worked! I was a cog that linked up to every other cog in order to make the mechanisms work. Hindsight has provided me with the rare glimpse of me, sitting in the library studying and planning my future, when there was ‘no’ sporting fixture. In essence, an opportunity to consolidate, reflect and to develop.

Every university, across the country stopped their lectures on a Wednesday afternoon. Now – this argument is not for this article here, but – given the government’s policy now allows universities to charge up to £9000 for university tuition fees; why would any student, perhaps even me as a mature student (now), want to splash out £9000 for tuition and know that once a week, throughout the entire year, I would not have access to tutors or lectures? I would question if every university still offers their Wednesday afternoon downtime at all…

I know this format also exists in many independent schools in the UK – given the tradition for sport – but what I’d like to see in my lifetime, is the same principle being embedded in all state schools across the country for the same reasons and more. Just imagine, next Wednesday afternoon… you will either be dropping down your whiteboard pens, laptops and exercise books in order to:

  • take a small group of students across town to the local museum.
  • take a sporting team to a local fixture to play in the wind, rain and mud!
  • get involved in a whole-school CPD project with a group of teachers in your own school.
  • meet up with a group of like-minded individuals from across the region, for a TeachMeet on Design Technology projects for the classroom.
  • visit a nearby school to discuss long-term partnerships in the council.
  • use the time to complete a module on your MA assignment.
  • or simply read a professional book to develop your own practice in the classroom and so on…
  • the only rule is, no marking or meetings allowed!

No matter what the pathway, every teacher across the country must take part in short and long-term CPD, every Wednesday afternoon. No matter what option is taken, the training forms part of their personal development and that the career path is logged.

“…I dream of a day, where CPD is so inherently established, that is becomes part of every teachers’ bloodstream…”

Now, I do not mean that this CPD is logged in such a way that it becomes a meaningless way of setting goals as part of performance management. Far from it! I dream of a day, where CPD is so inherently established, that is becomes part of every teachers’ bloodstream; that logging and accumulating personal development become a desire and the expected way of maintaining personal development. So much so, that we cannot live without it, nor secure jobs, promotions, pay-rises or any credibility, without an accurate log of our own reflective journey. It would only be stipulated and managed by ourselves. If we are teaching students the skills to learn, shouldn’t we be leading the way in our own development too?

I’m assuming the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’; therefore, we need to provide all teachers with a forum for making learning feasible within the working day and not something that Mr. Keen-Always-Gets-It-Done and Mrs. Do-It-All does in their own working day, as well as giving time for Mrs. Part-Time-Mum-with-4-kids and Mr. Works-Hard-but-Has-No-Time-At-Home to study! the chance to complete relevant CPD.

Imagine. Every teacher. Every school.

Not just your school if you do it already. Every teacher, every school. Everyone.

CPD: “…It would no longer be left to those who were ‘sent on a course…”

Everyone has time to develop professionally in their working day. It would no longer be left to those who were ‘sent on a course’, or for the others like me and you who thrive on learning in our own time and take CPD into our own hands. It would be something available for everyone (at work).

Now, I hear Headteachers and government big-wigs cry up and down the country!

‘What about the students?!’

So let me provide a small sample of ideas for schools to make this idea a reality. If teachers are off-timetable, off-site and in a non-committal part of their contract, then the legality of having students in our care is no longer needed. So what could we do for students and parents who are working in order to keep students engaged and off-the-streets? Allow me to provide some very simple ideas:

  • allow all students to do the same – sporting fixtures across the regions, funded by local volunteers. What better way to carry on the Olympic legacy and ensure all students and schools are engaged in sporting activity? If universities can do it, surely schools can too? This idea would free-up time, given up by so many PE teachers across the country who have to use much of their own time after school, shipping students to and fro, to events and fixtures.
  • open up 6th form colleges for work-related learning exchanges.
  • universities offer access to facilities for students.
  • allow teachers off-site and give entrepreneurial colleagues the forum to come into school (CRB checked of course) to provide real-life experiences in or out of school. Perhaps under the leadership of a classroom teacher on a rotational basis (once a month)?
  • dare I say, allow younger students to go home and older students to study in the local library.
  • I am certain there are more inspiring and feasible ideas out there. Please comment below.


Assuming the ‘average teacher salary in the UK’ is £23,010 , lets work out a few sums.

  • £1,917.50p (gross) with £1,278 (net) as an income per month.
  • £1,278 divided by 30 days (with 8 days being a weekend), so £1,278 / 24 = £53.25 per day.
  • £53.25p assuming a teachers 1.0 contract. Therefore, a single Wednesday afternoon would be represented by 0.1 timescale.
  • 0.1 would be calculated as £5.25p per teacher to be released for CPD purposes every Wednesday afternoon.
  • 38 weeks per year, for one teacher, the costs for this CPD endeavour would be £199.50p. MUCH cheaper than your average training day!
  • Let’s assume there are 500,000 teachers across England and Wales. The cost for one Wednesday afternoon would be £2,625,000M.
  • If we break this down for every school. The average secondary school has 100 teachers and the average primary school has 20 teachers.
  • 100 (Secondary) teachers X one Wednesday = £525. For 38 weeks of the academic year, this would cost £52,500 per secondary school.
“…What I haven’t quite yet worked out, is do we just let the students go home, or do we engage them in training and sporting activities too?..”

I know many secondary schools who set aside this figure for whole-school CPD. What if this panacea became compulsory? I would ensure every member of staff received some form of CPD training, EVERY Wednesday, ALL year! This would be incredible. Never, have I managed to secure all staff having CPD (excluding training days) throughout the year, through their own desire. Using this budget to offer ‘every Wednesday’ to develop, reflect and train would do this.

  • 20 teachers (Primary) X one Wednesday = £105. For 38 weeks of the academic year, this would cost £3,675 per primary school.

For me, the figures all add up. The impact is huge and the possibilities are endless. What I haven’t quite yet worked out, is do we just let the students go home, or do we engage them in training and sporting activities too? You decide.

Here is a link to all the #BlogSync posts on this topic.



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8 thoughts on “The Universal Panacea? #BlogSync by @TeacherToolkit

  1. My school does this, every Friday we finish at 1.35pm and there are extra curricular clubs for students. The only rules are that you only run a club if you want to but it must be extra curricular it cannot be a catch up club. This was already in place when I started at the school 3 years ago but my understanding is that the school day was restructured during the rest of the week to allow for this time on a Friday. As well as running a club with a fellow media studies teacher I have been able to use the time in lots of ways that don’t involve marking & the most effective one for me is simply giving me time to keep up to date with changes not only to my subject but also to wider teaching issues & events. Not exactly what I used my Wednesdays for during those halcyon uni years but formative non the less!!! We’ve seen a better up take with the activities with students also as they have now come to see the extra curricular activities almost as an extension of their school day rather than something which keeps them behind after school, although it is still option for them. The other thing it’s really helped me with is getting to know some of the younger students, since I teach Media and have a Year 13 form group I rarely come into contact with students from Years7-9, running a club means I get to build relationships with the students that have nothing to do with teaching them but everything to do with a shared passion in films which I have found has helped my relationships with some of the most challenging students in our school. All in all I think it’s brilliant for me!!!

  2. An excellent post, and an idea that carries a good deal of weight with me. I think it’s fair to say that Baker days haven’t had anything like the impact they might have done. Perhaps if schools had collaborated more initially they might have done, but wouldn’t this provide a fantastic springboard for all schools and teachers to engage?!

    1. It might have helped had the NUT not called everyone out on strike to protest against Baker days and to say what they thought of the idea!

      As for the proposal itself, couldn’t it be made cost-free (in the terms of the calculation in the article) by moving to a 4 term year and reducing school holidays by a fornight? Having a shorter summer break and more term time weeks during the warmer, drier and longer daylight part of the year would also make outdoor activities for pupils on those Wednesday afternoons more pleasant and practicable.

      (I love the idea! – TT)

  3. Pingback: Professional development for teachers: How can we take it to the next level? #Outstanding « @ TeacherToolkit
  4. Does anyone remember the great days of Teacher Centers? Professional development was based on expressed teacher needs. Teach centers were federally funded. The movement, begun in the mid-70’s, lasted for about ten years. Reagen administration dropped the ball, as did, sadly, the teacher unions.

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