Easing the data workload.

An internal feedback post to colleagues at the end of our inset day. Shared for anyone interested to read too!

You tell us! Shedding workload for the New Year.

I outlined in our New Year blog and reminded colleagues of my vision shared in September, the way forward for our school in terms of reducing workload and supporting each department and individual staff member to focus on what will have the greatest impact on their learning, teaching and PD.


It’s easy, of course, for me to share a wonderfully collaborative vision and to sell this to the world of educational social media and for everyone to think that Meols Cop must be a great place to work in! After all they are they are just words and they are my words; I’ve read lots of articles and posts that when I’ve delved a little deeper, I’ve found that the reality of the school situation isn’t quite as the head might have described it! SLT in general take a bit of a bashing at times and especially where workload issues are concerned and I’m sure that some who have read [if anyone has!] my previous post, may be sceptical of how the philosophy may look in practice.

So what does shedding the workload begin to look like, are we asking the right questions, are we focusing on the right day to day issues and how as SLT can we support the process? Paying lip-service to workload issues is not an option!

I’m biased but when I stood up to thank the contributors to our morning inset session, I genuinely meant the excitement that I tried to convey at hearing such good ideas and the whole faculty reflections that produced the shared work we all heard about. We now, as SLT, have to find the time and opportunities to let cross-curricular conversations happen, for ideas and adaptations to be trialled, possibly fail, and to revisit in summer. Collaboration and sharing of ideas is only a start. Time must be provided to let the real work begin and impact made on student learning and teacher workload.

After our literacy audit [blog to follow later in the year] Leon explained his hopes for a shift in the process of data collection and to home in on what colleagues feel will be a far more effective use of data. At previous schools the oft seen tactic of 6 lots of data collection, followed by an evaluation of the collated evidence by MLT and then a visit to tell you which of your students was underperforming 3 weeks after you had worked that out because you had sent the original data! Etc. etc. etc. We don’t actually do this and our system is quite good but it can be much better and so Leon offered these aims and a brief notion of what internal monitoring should provide. There was no disagreement.

January Inset

January Inset 2

As with marking/feedback/book scrutiny etc. there is no ‘1 size fits all’ approach or straightjacket and 3 faculty leaders [our new SLEs!] stepped forward to explain their latest data journey, how it has reduced workload and where it needs to go next.

There are elements of the same approach within English and maths as the mathematicians adapted some English ideas after our last sharing of data ideas. Science did trial a similar approach but found that it just didn’t work for them and have devised something different.

Sarah explained that in English they have been trialling marking codes which has reduced their workload significantly.

January Inset 4

They are able to let the students complete tracking sheets which WWW/EBI answers according to the marking codes and then can pinpoint where intervention is actually needed most and can plan accordingly.

January Inset 10January Inset 6

Similarly in maths, Jen explained that, after each assessment, students completed an evaluation sheet and the WWW/EBIs were used to track where intervention was needed.

January Inset 5

They had decided that their data focus should be;

January Inset 3

Once the faculty have met to discuss what the data told them they can then plan to tackle group or individual weaknesses [they apparently have 97 G.C.S.E. codes!] and use suitable strategies;

E.g. Intervention with SH

5 a day change

Homework’s for the next term

Targeted lesson

Carmel from science shared a different focus based on interleaving and recall which aimed at the agreed weakness of a lack of revision from students which limited their factual knowledge in assessments. The scientists have also been tracking GM/attitude by looking at weekly test scores.

January Inset 8

January Inset 9The results are quite fascinating and students of very different abilities may well get 10/10 on basic recall, if they learn the facts at home. Pupil premium students have shown the most variations of all with 10 achieved 1 week, 3 the next and then followed by 10! The faculty are now using their lesson studies and research projects to try to find out what are the key external factors for these students in determining their responses to revision and recall. How can school support and develop long term memory retention for them?

The scientist’s key concern won’t surprise colleagues because they worry about how they can more effectively monitor the impact of their intervention and Carmel asked other departments for their ideas to share.

Each faculty has a way to go but it is important that they choose their own route. Not everything has to be marked, every piece of data does not need collecting and collating and the focus of impact should be on agreed areas of subject specific weakness. Workload within this is for faculties to decide not SLT. If it is too much, say so. Everyone’s voice matters.

I made the point clearly at the beginning of the day that whilst it was easy for me to hope that everyone is happy here, if anyone does find themselves to be struggling with their workload that they need to see me. I don’t see it as a ‘weakness’ but as a strength! We have to be honest with each other and self-evaluation of workload and priorities is important, especially during the winter months when absences rise and energy levels may sap.

As senior leaders we have to ask questions sometimes that we aren’t sure of the answers to and that some of which may be critical of us! If we don’t do this we can’t move forward as a united team. Leon asked these questions of the faculties/departments and waited with some trepidation for the answers!

Question 1 – How does your department use its day-to-day internal tracking & monitoring?

Question 2 – How does your department use the progress spread sheets produced after data is entered into SIMS?

Question 3a – To what extent does your current monitoring satisfy the following? How could they be adapted to meet the criteria?

  • Identify which skills students are struggling with.
  • Give an indication if the student is currently on target or below.

Question 3d – To what extent does your current monitoring satisfy the following? How could they be adapted to meet the criteria?

  • Highlight any interventions that work and those that don’t.
  • Give an indication of their attitude / GM towards your subject.

Question 4 – As a percentage how much time is spent by the members of your department on: Planning       Marking         Data entry/tracking            Other                                                            

Do you think the current balance is correct? If not how would you like it to look?

Question 5 – If you wanted to free up more time for other initiatives what would you like to change? How could you develop/trial a measure of the impact of stopping some of your current practice?

All of the answers were shared with everyone else [along with each subject’s literacy pledges!] and as an SLT we will sit down and work through the common ground themes that may have emerged and been suggested. Leon’s initial view as the answers came back was that everyone was confident and happy with the use of data when it related directly to their own teaching and classroom planning [no 1] but more sketchy when it came to the progress data that gets sent ‘upwards’ [no 2] This doesn’t help the classroom teacher, doesn’t change classroom practice and takes time out of planning. There are times when we do need to see whole data [for obvious reasons] but we need to work out how we can access staff data and process it in a different way without imposing on their time. This is an admin task and we will put our heads together and feedback a.s.a.p. Leon quite rightly tells me that staff have to see the data as something useful and not just something to fill forms in for. We already knew this but needed confirmation from everyone and to see proposals that we might not have considered. I can’t share all of the full answers in this blog, as it will last for pages but will add a few of the comments from different subjects and different questions so that external readers can get a flavour of what was said.

  • We would like more PPA time to plan using new initiatives and track their impact. One tracking system for all to use to avoid confusion and a uniformed code for students and staff.
  • To compare the impact of intervention strategies such as phone calls home by providing a specimen group and a control.
  • The student led approach to tracking using goggle docs has really helped me to reduce my tracking and intervention work load. Each of the aspect are of equal importance, and are interconnected. However if data entry/tracking can be made more efficiently this will help work load.
  • Tell the government to stop changing things so that we don’t have to keep on redesigning everything!
  • Reduce other such as: subject reports that are repetitive and often for the same student – tracking in SIMS too often. Behaviour log on SIMS is time consuming with email to on call and contacting parents.
  • Reduce workload – no marking of draft books only peer / self-assessment – independent homework – allows students choices at KS4. KS3 homework on VLE is independent learning.
  • We feel that we don’t have enough time for marking. All of us value well planned and interactive lessons above marking. Even given DIRT time we don’t believe student’s value our marking as much as well-planned lessons yet marking is so very time consuming.
  • Time together (PPAs?) so that we can develop new resources/ talk about the new curriculum and develop new assessments.
  • Cut down on whole school initiatives and spend more time working as a subject specific team on resources/ideas that would really help our department.
  • Marking is not totally beneficial for the students. I would like to develop a quicker approach due to the amount of classes that are taught in music, it takes a substantial amount of time. Additional activities take up a lot of time and I feel that this should be reduced with planning taking more time.
  • Save time on tracking things that are not necessary. Find a way to moderate speaking and writing exams more effectively as these take up a lot of time (At least 6 minutes listening per student before discussion). Form time activities, a lot of “other” time spent on this.
  • We want to spend more time writing demanding questions/model answers that make pupils think deeply whilst prompting them to think about their responses rather than just leaving us to mark them. We have had a great deal of success doing this through self-marking against mark schemes. We would like to increase the amount of work carried out this way and use the time saved on teacher marking & feedback to set the questions and track the progress and performance of pupils. If pupils classwork/effort was tracked in the same manner and the edges between work done in class and outside of lesson becomes more blurred, then we could affect mind-set over a period of time.
  • We believe we could have more impact on pupil progress by tracking whether pupils are carrying out their work effectively and completing it to a high standard and at an appropriate pace (as is happening in our independent study trial). Each lesson / piece of work could be graded RAG. Work / lessons / topic graded red, will need to be upgraded to green at some point by the pupil for them to stay on target. If pupils classwork/effort was tracked in the same manner and the edges between work done in class and outside of lesson becomes more blurred, then we could affect mind-set over a period of time.(Not sure this is clear! We know what we mean. )

You can see that I’ve focused on the last question as it shows a variety of requests and also what we need to respond to. Watch this space!

Thank you again to presenters and all colleagues for their sharing of ideas. I can’t do justice to the quality and quantity of what was said and have only been able to share parts of the presentations and questionnaires but I do value the ideas and hope that our next steps in reducing workload can make a difference to you all.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *