12 Smart Steps to Reduce Teacher Workload

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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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How can we help schools reduce teacher workload?

Last week, I co-lead a professional development session with ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) on workload.

Teachers’ workload is too high. Teaching has always been demanding, but why has the issue reached epidemic proportions? At a time when teacher recruitment and retention is under severe pressure, school leaders need to understand the issues, challenge their own thinking about their policies and be open-minded to new ways of working in schools.

This course considered what drivers have aligned to create this situation and what government, OfSTED, school leaders and teachers should be doing about it. During the session, we covered in detail the three areas which teachers raised as causing their biggest workload issues: marking, lesson preparation and resources and managing data.

The course offered practical advice on ways to reduce workload in all these areas, based on research evidence and drawing on a wide range of practice and experience. In the post, you will be able to view and download my ideas (only) for my part of the training.

The training:

Below is a presentation you can download. It is divided into the following sections and is designed for 3 hours of training > these are my 12 current solutions for making schools, teachers and school leaders work smarter.

  1. Warm-up (slides 4-18)
  2. Research: what does the data tell us? (slides 19-26)
  3. Initial self-valuations about personal workload.  (slides 27-30)
  4. Emails: how to switch off? (slides 31-37)
  5. Leadership reviews: self-evaluation of workload on others. (slides 33-52)
  6. Mark Plan Teach ideas for every school. (slides 53-106)
  7. The work-life balance fallacy … (slides 107-110)
  8. Teaching smarter ideas. (slides 112-135)
  9. Strategies for meetings. (slides 136-137)
  10. Workload groups findings (slides 138-143)
  11. Organisational suggestions for schools. (slides 144-168)
  12. Speed dating ideas: share and compare. (slides 169-179)

There is a huge amount of information here for you to adopt for your own training and lead in your own school.


The DfE Workload Survey in 2010 and 2013 reported:

Type 2010 2013
Primary 50.2 hours per week 59.3 hours per week
Secondary 49.9 55.7
Primary SLT 56.1 60.2
Secondary SLT 57.3 63.3

*6753 teachers were sampled and 1004 (15%) completed a usable diary survey.  

In the Workload Challenge analysis, conducted by the Department of Education in February 2015,  teacher consultation responses said that the drivers of workload – most commonly – was created by:

  • accountability/perceived pressures of OfSTED (53%)
  • tasks set by senior/middle leaders (51%)

Clearly top-down demands are damaging those working tirelessly at the chalk-face. Therefore, as a current school leader, I have an obligation of the work I do and the impact it has on other teachers.

Here are some images from the presentation (section 4) where I show ‘how emails are becoming part of the problem’.

Click to enlarge

Workload Self-Review:

In the session I ask people to consider, what is:

  • your personal workload challenge?
  • your school’s workload challenge?

In one section of the training, I ask to review ‘how teachers and school leaders approach and manage their own workload?’ Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the Urgent / Important Matrix is offered as one strategy that could be deployed. I have been using this since I became a deputy headteacher and you can see it in action in this blog series

ASCL workload CPD Steven Covery 7 Habits Effective People urgant Important Matrix

Click the image

School leaders have as much responsibility as anyone else who manages their own workload, but leaders also have a responsibility to look out for the impact of their work on others. Every time you add something to your own or another person’s workload, you should commit to also take something away.


Before you download the file, please click a tweet of thanks and do let me know how you get on: #WorkloadSolutions

ASCL workload CPD

Click the image

Download the PDF here.

*This resource is copyright of @TeacherToolkit and @ASCL_UK.


2 thoughts on “12 Smart Steps to Reduce Teacher Workload

  1. Hi Ross,

    I really like this blog and I wonder if you’d be prepared to share your tips with our teaching staff here at Hereford Sixth Form College (perhaps via Zoom or Teams?).

    Thanks, John

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