Reducing Workload: Structured Conversations

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Work Conversation


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 school leaders structure meaningful workload conversations to reduce teacher workload?

On the 21st July 2018, the Department for Education published updated guidance and resources for teachers and school leaders to use in their schools to help reduce teacher workload.

 Identify School Issues

The workload topic in schools is a subject very close to my heart; having suffered from redundancy and from a damaging school inspection, we know we don’t just have teacher workload to worry about! With increasing accountability placed upon schools and school leaders, it is clear that teachers are finding the current workload issues in schools an increasing challenge.

Ignoring the irony of publishing this guidance at the end of an academic year, there are some useful documents worth discussing. I’ve had a very close look through the guidance. Note, there are some hideous examples. One of the worst is a document to track how much data is being collected – a workload tool to gather data on the “amount of data schools are collecting” from teachers – and this is cited as a good example to use!

Structured Conversations

In the practical tools developed by school leaders and teachers, there is an excellent structured conversation document to help identify workload issues in schools. The questions inside this document ask:

  1. What are the biggest workload issues that have limited impact on teaching and learning?
  2. What would you do to have a positive impact on reducing workload, whilst maintaining standards?
  3. How would you change this?
  4. If you could stop doing one thing which would lessen your workload what would your priority be?
  5. If you stopped this, what would the impact on teaching and learning be?
  6. How could you reduce any negative impact?
  7. If you could change the way things are organised in your school/department, what would you change and how?


The DfE recommend that schools decide which tools are most appropriate to use. The recommendation is that when you download and use the workload survey, provide a copy to all staff (10 minutes) to give you a better understanding of workload issues across your school or team.

A tip from me to save your support staff or a school leader having to collect all of the data from many responses completed a piece of paper, copy and paste the questions into a Google Form instead. This enables the software to automatically populate and analyse the information – and will save you hours of work!

You can see an example here in my data collection tool for my fourth book; Tackling The Ten Greatest Issues In Education. Other useful resources to download from Teacher Toolkit are:

This audit tool is designed to help schools find out what tasks and which areas staff are spending time on. It will take a brave school leader to use the template and act on the feedback!

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