Planning Workload: Ask A Teacher!

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If you wanted to help improve lesson planning and reduce teacher workload, who would you ask?

In my last post, I said that ‘we live in a time, where teacher workload operates at a frenetic pace.’ Last week, Nicky Morgan announced the chairs and members of 3 new workload review groups. These working parties will look at teacher-workload in 3 key areas; marking, planning and data-management.

I will state again, that from each of the working groups, I am keen to see each committee go beyond case-studies and exemplar documents, and actually change policy. I’m not sure if this process will actually change anything. Any proposals will be fruitless unless schools start trusting teachers to plan lessons over time. That is, from curriculum plans and schemes of work, and not via mindless requests from school leadership teams to insist that teachers produce reams and reams of one-off lesson plans.

It was only last week I discussed this in our leadership team meeting. I reminded my colleagues, that we do not want teachers to produce lesson plans for observers, OfSTED or for appraisal purposes. We want to believe that our teachers are planning their lessons – in whatever form – and that we can trust them to do this. This negates the need for mindless lesson plans produced for observations; scripted with intended learning outcomes prescribed by lessons objectives.

Lesson Planning Review Group:

Take a look at this photo published by Schools Week on Friday 9th October. The image shows that number of people belonging to each of the working parties across England.

Schools Week Workload

Image: Schools Week

Nicky Morgan revealed;

… the 41 people she has chosen to form three working groups to reduce teachers’ workload. The 28 people who represent schools come from six of eight English regions. (Source)

Group Objectives:

Each of the 3 working parties are due to report back to the Secretary of State in late spring 2016; publishing useful case studies, written by serving teachers, showing what’s working well in other schools.

I do not want to regurgitate the details already shared by the DfE, but a brief summary will prove useful; the group will consider how effective lesson planning and use of resources can raise standards without creating unnecessary workload. The shocking news – in comparison with the other steering groups – is that there is just 1 (ONE) classroom teacher on the review group.

The group’s aims are:

  • develop a set of principles for planning and use of resources in schools
  • make recommendations about planning policies and practice
  • consider if guidance on effective practice about what works in schools might be necessary

I am not asking that I be on the panel, or that I am unhappy with those that are on the review group. However, I would like to question why there is a significant absence of classroom teachers on this panel and I would also like to question the transparency of how each steering group is curated. Knowing that I have been partial to a steering group or two, I do know that these groups tend to be designed on the basis of ‘who you know.’

Please can we ask the DfE to publish how these groups are generated.

Smart Planning:

With the 100 teachers I work with, we have re-focused our lesson planning and can define them into these principles shown below. We believe that “planning is a process not a product. It has one purpose, to enable high quality delivery which meets the needs of all students. We do NOT ask our teachers for lesson plans, we simple ask teachers to;

  • Be clear and precise about the knowledge/skills you want students to learn, not what you want them to do.
  • Do the ‘so why?’ Activities, including homework, must be designed to facilitate learning and not to keep students busy.
  • There must be evidence of long-term planning, in schemes of work, and short-term planning in the planner.
  • Differentiation should be planned over time to ensure a ‘quality first’ approach which meets the needs of all students and groups and maximises the use of any additional adult(s) in the room.
  • Every class must have a seating plan on MINT class that accounts for their profile including the various groups (e.g. gender, ethnicity, SEN, PP).
  • All lessons must get off to a flying start, with students purposeful from the beginning.
  • Consider timings to ensure appropriate pace for the intended learning.

(Our Learning Policy is found in this blog).”


Recently, I’ve blogged about lesson planning topics that have resonated with teachers all over the country.

It may be worth you and your senior leadership teams reading/sharing these blogs to help cut this workload nonsense; or better still, share this article with the DfE. If you have any solutions, email the working part here.

I will report back; and also blog shortly about the final working group, data management.


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3 thoughts on “Planning Workload: Ask A Teacher!

  1. Not only do they need classroom teachers on the panels, but they also need teachers who are teaching a FULL timetable load. I believe one simple way to reduce workload is to reduce the timetable load to a max of 70%. It would be worth the extra cost. Whether there would be enough teachers to do that is another matter.

  2. Too often I see teachers (from other schools) typing mindlessly into …and they tend to be landscape word doc templates with complicated grids. Probably the worst thing to type into especially for users who find tables in word unpredictable. A teacher can spend much time just getting their text into the right place and then it goes over into another page! (you get the idea). Get rid of word docs as templates. Scribble on a blank piece of paper if necessary. As an experienced teacher in my subject I do also enjoy the things you can’t plan for. I was asked recently to display a googolplex. Google serach would not load (another story) so I started writing a 1 with 100 zeros while pausing to look at my watch (for dramatic effect). I then put a bubble round that and wrote 10 [to the power that bubble]. I was asked if I could have written the actual googolplex. So under my guidance they started to think – it took me 2mins to write 100 zeros, a 1000 would have taken 20mins, 10000 200mins etc, better call that 3hrs, then 30hrs (call it a day) then 10 days, etc. You can easily work out you’d be dead before you got anywhere near the task. I could do this unplanned for two reasons…good subject knowledge (not very sought after I know) and general experience of standing infront of a class. Some of my best moments are unplanned. This is not an excuse for turning up and seeing what happens! Nevertheless it is an important factor. Follow me at

  3. I would be interested to know if there are any FE college lecturers on the panel as last time I checked, we had an exhausting timetable, and with the same expectations from OFSTED as classroom teachers?

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