Thursday 29 January 2015

False 'Solutions' to Teacher Workload

Following the General Secretary's report to the Executive, a discussion developed on the danger of false 'solutions' to the issue of teacher workload.

Whilst Nicky Morgan has not yet released the outcome of the government's 'Workload Challenge' and discussions with Unions are continuing, recent comments made by the Secretary of State are deeply disturbing. Speaking at the BETT conference on education in technology Nicky Morgan made the following comments (full text here):

"On my regular tours of schools across the country, teachers have shown me apps which can scan and mark almost instantly - saving hours of work.

"Quick Key, for example, is a scanning app for mobile phones that allows a teacher to scan a whole class set of answers in about a minute. Letting them pinpoint exactly how well the class are doing, freeing them up to spend more time delivering lessons in the first place."

"Just the other day, the Stephen Perse Foundation, a leading private school in Cambridge, announced they were making 12 multimedia textbooks available online for all to use. And of course the world’s largest online collection of free education content is already available on Apple’s iTunes U platform."

Now, I don't know what Nicky Morgan's vision of education is but mine does not involve teachers dowloading pre-prepared material from private schools and tech giants and delivering a curriculum that consists of tasks so devoid of critical thinking and educational value that they can be marked by a mobile phone.

Indeed, you might wonder from the Secretary of State's comments whether teachers would even be needed in this brave new world.  Why not simply replace us with pre-recorded video lessons and repetitive tasks marked by machine?

The answer is because it doesn't work.

Technology has a hugely important role to play in the future of education but it cannot replace the creativity and professional understanding of teachers.  It should be a tool to enhance this role, not to replace it or reduce it to purely mechanical tasks.

And the solution to excessive teacher workload (now in excess of 60hrs a week for many teachers) is not to de-professionalise teaching.  Rather, it is to ensure that we have sufficient well-qualified, well-trained teachers with a real grounding in pedagogy, and to cut the bureaucratic tasks which prevent them from doing their jobs.

To do that, we need to end our obsession with data and curb the 'accountability gone mad' which is not only harming teachers but which is damaging our children's education.

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