Can you help us to reduce the pressure of work for our teachers and support staff?
There’s no lack of job pressure in the field of education, especially at a vocational school with 12,000 students and 1,200 employees. There they were under so much pressure that registration, staff rotas, reading lists, and other important things were all backed up. And that was bad news for students, who suffered as a result. So the school asked us to release the pressure.
There they were under so much pressure that registration, staff rotas, reading lists, and other important things were all backed up.
The first step was to get talking with everyone involved. This soon showed that many teachers felt they were not getting the help they needed from the support staff. They still had to spend too much time on administrative tasks. At the same time, the support staff said they were not getting what they needed from the teachers. For example, to make registration at school official, the student’s ‘contract’ has to be completed in full. The teacher is the lead. If information or a signature is missing, that ruffles the feathers of the support staff, who send everything back to the teacher for completion. And that, in turn, ruffles the teacher’s feathers. So it’s better to avoid such situations: with better communications, more mutual understanding, and crystal-clear planning.
Clear yearly planning, with explicit requirements and responsibilities, and broad-based understanding of its importance: that was needed so students wouldn’t have to suffer any more from the excessive pressure of work experienced by teachers and other school employees.
So first of all, we got together with teachers and support staff to set up a yearly schedule. What needs to be ready when? That was leading for the rest of the process.
For various issues, we established working groups made up of teachers and support staff. For example, there were working groups for the staff rotas, for the reading lists, and for registration. Employees went into depth in those working groups. They had clarified what needed to be ready when. But what were the necessary conditions? How far beforehand does a curriculum need to be ready, for instance, so that a reading list can be distributed on time?
While the common conclusion now was that once the new year began, you should actually already be working on the next year
Everyone in the working groups got to have their say. This often helped the teachers to see that some things do indeed need to be ready quite early in the year. In practice, a lot of preparatory work for a new school year took place in the last two months of the old school year. While the common conclusion now was that once the new year began, you should actually already be working on the next year – in all areas: courses, staffing, budgets, etc.
But if they were more efficient, that would leave them with more time, money, and energy for what really counts: education.
Now that they saw things more clearly, the working groups drafted a detailed schedule, including responsibilities, and work arrangements. The schedule was approved by all directors. The members of the working groups drummed up broad-based support for the schedule within the school. How? By making it clear that this was serious business. That was key, because teachers do like their freedom. But if they were more efficient, that would leave them with more time, money, and energy for what really counts: education. And that’s an argument which strikes a chord with teachers.
Teachers and support staff are clear on what needs to happen when and why, whose job it is, and what sorts of problems they can run into. They have a schedule that is right for one and all. And they have made practical progress faster than expected. Staff schedules and reading lists are looking great, but in other areas they still have some catching up to do. That’s all right: they have until next year to get it all sorted. Until then they will continue tying up the loose ends for this school year while at the same time working on the next.