I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about treating teachers well and helping them manage their workload.
My last post about our Outstanding OFSTED judgement began with this important quotation which encapsulates how we try to run Huntington School:

Too much of sport operates under the tyranny of the result…the core principle at Saracens is that we gather talented people together, treat them unbelievably well and in return they try unbelievably hard. That is it. Everything else – winning or losing matches, winning or losing Cups – are just outcomes. They are not the primary aim. We exist to have a positive impact on as many people as possible.

– Edward Griffiths, CEO, Saracens RFC

Headteachers need to trust their colleagues more than ever. Seneca said, “The first step towards making people trustworthy is to trust them.” At our school we teach over 3,360 lessons each fortnight; I cannot teach them all, so what I have to do is develop my colleagues in a safe school environment which allows them to thrive professionally and personally.
Workload…Two members of the DfE Delivery Unit visited us in September to explore workload issues. They met with me and I told them what we have been trying to do here for the past decade. For the rest of the day they met numerous colleagues without me and then we spoke at the end of the day whilst their taxi waited patiently outside. They asked how they could bottle-up the culture we have developed at Huntington and spread it across the system? They reflected that, whilst hours worked is an important metric, another is job satisfaction and that teachers here felt intellectually challenged and interested in their job. We train teachers really well whilst insisting they accept the professional obligation to improve their practice. A few weeks ago I shared the summary notes I gave the colleagues from the DfE Delivery Unit with Sean Harford. This afternoon, the following Twitter conversation sparked this post:

So, here are those summary notes:

DfE Delivery Unit Visit to Huntington School

Teacher Workload

Wednesday 20 September 2017

  1. Trust…Respect, Honesty and Kindness.
  2. Culture is hugely important.
  3. Supportive yet challenging governance, which understands that teachers are our most valuable resource.
  4. Marking and Feedback policy designed from the bottom up, based upon a set of principles, different according to department. We base a lot of what we do on the ideas of Daisy Christodolou.
  5. Data capture is measured – we report progress twice a year and attainment at the end of the year.
  6. Minimal written reports.
  7. Lesson Maps are flexible and relatively non-prescriptive; full/daily/class-by-class.
  8. Most policy is designed by the middle-leaders with minimal SLT input, because they know what works best.
  9. E-Comms technician to set up IRIS observation cameras and to run the website etc etc.;
  10. HR, Finance, Premises – expert operational SLT who are liberated to just get on with it.
  11. Minimise admin so meeting time is dedicated to T&L – on alternate Mondays we combine the one hour of meeting time with an hour when the students go home early at 2.30 pm so that teachers can work on T&L in what we call Teaching and Learning Forums (TLFs) from 2.45-4.45 pm. We have 19 TLFs a year. We have less than 25 hours a week contact time with students and we have better results.
  12. When we had all the curriculum change 3 years ago we took two extra training days.
  13. We have c.35 part-time staff. Flexibility keeps good teachers in the school.
  14. Central admin staff are excellent and they drive improvements – changing MIS systems was down to them.
  15. One Family Day a year, fully paid.
  16. Work scrutiny is designed by SLs and departmentally-based and developmental, rather than penal QA.
  17. All funeral requests granted without question.
  18. Meetings finish on time. SLT meeting does not go beyond 5pm. No prizes for looking busy – work in a way that suits you. All staff can go home if they are not teaching last period of the day.
  19. 44/50 Periods of teaching per fortnight maximum.
  20. “No lesson judgements” policy came in three or four years ago. We discuss how to get better.
  21. We develop leadership positions and undertake shadow-staffing/succession planning exercises to see who we need to retain.
  22. Departmental Administration Support across departments.
  23. PM is called Performance Development and everyone completes an Inquiry Question which they have loved, with support from the Research School.
  24. We begin from the assumption that everybody will get a pay rise unless their students’ outcomes are poor and we use our wisdom when making that call, with utter transparency.
  25. Training is planned across the whole year, so people know what is happening.
  26. Class size and funding…we would have £800,000 p.a. more in our budget if we had just kept up with inflation since 2010.

Ultimately, the DfE can do very little to reduce workload – it is up to school leaders to set a culture where staff are cared for, well-trained and valued and policies are based on common sense and the principle that we shouldn’t be doing things unless they clearly help improve student outcomes.

And here is what the OFSTED report said about our CPD:

Click on the image below for more details about our Leading Learning CPD course.


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This post has 9 Comments

  1. Excellent as ever. In particular would any of your departments be willing to share their “marking” policies? Especially interested in science…

  2. Problem is John, I have (and I’m sure many others have) been hearing these messages from exceptional leaders over and over again through my 36 years in ‘the game’.
    My exemplars are Rita Pierson:(https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion
    and my friend and mentor who said “We look at their physical development; their social, moral, cultural development; their creativity, their spirituality, the whole balance,” … explains. “The challenge is to, quite rightly, look at their academic attainment, while not forgetting that each one of these young folks is an individual worth nurturing.”
    Sadly however, too many don’t want to play the game for the benefit of children but prefer to enjoy the competition – the result. It’s really not rocket science but rather dedicated staff with leaders who trust and support them effectively to get on with developing the art of teaching.
    I am delighted for you and your staff – you deserve each other. Happy Xmas 🙂

  3. This is so inspiring, John. I wish all HTs were like you.
    Our issue as a profession, though, is that far too many HTs and SLTs (and governing bodies) are too leery of the risk of treating results as mere outcomes. It takes real bravery by a school’s leadership to put what should be the real purpose of a school – having a positive effect on everyone’s lives – at the centre of everything it does.
    I work for an executive head who knows every Ofsted tickbox, insists on his SLT changing the “language” of policies every time the Ofsted or DfE “language” changes*, hasn’t taught for probably upwards of 10 years and has no real understanding of teaching and learning. He doesn’t know the name of a single kid in the school. But because he talks a good fight in terms of “the journey to Outstanding”, the GB buys it. If he were ever in a situation where the interests of the children conflicted with making the institution “look good for Ofsted”, there is no question in my mind that he would prejudice the interests of the children. In a heartbeat.
    This isn’t a bad person I’m talking about here, but it’s a fairly typical one. Hothoused inside the league-table/Ofsted system and encouraged to jump through hoops rather than think critically about why we’re even in the business in the first place. Sad to say, I honestly believe many senior leaders have never once thought about what a school is for, or what the purpose of education is.
    We’re in dire need of thousands more heads with your vision and imagination. They’re few and far between.
    (*I literally had to go through a 1000-word policy once, replacing the phrase “close the gap” with the phrase “diminish differences” because the language in official guidance had changed. This is entirely typical of his approach. Everyone knows what “close the gap” means; his priority was to LOOK LIKE HE KNEW THE JARGON, more than to actually – you know – DO anything. It didn’t take long to fix the language in the policy, but imagine if I’d used that time to do something that had an actual point.)

  4. I am delighted that you have been recognised for your approach. After we spoke about eighteen months ago, I tried to encourage the management at my school, where things were going very differently, to have a look at ideas similar to those you had suggested to me. They did not want to know. In their view, beatings need to continue until morale improves. Very sad, but I suspect they are in the majority.

  5. Sensible, thoughtful, inspiring, caring, and both teacher and student-centred. It has given me much hope, positivity and confidence in trying to do something similar at my own school. Thank you John.

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