This is part five of five in a series of blogs addressing the five key areas where Edtech can have the greatest impact on British schools as outlined by the Department for Education and Education Secretary Damian Hinds on August 7th, 2018. Please click here to read our initial response article summarising their comments.

In the DfE’s 2016 Teacher Workload Survey, a staggering 93% of respondents stated that workload was ‘a fairly serious problem’ in their school.  Non-teaching tasks are a major contributor to this problematic workload volume. TES Scotland spoke to a group of teachers on the issue and found that reductions to support staff had lead to a drastic increase in the amount of time teachers were spending on things like photocopying, filing, and data input.  Teachers reported their frustration with the time demanded by these tasks. They detract from time and energy that should be directed towards actual teaching.

In response, some teachers have elected to work part-time, incurring a significant pay cut, because the workload demanded by full-time teaching is unmanageable. It’s a distressing paradox – teachers overburdened by non-teaching tasks are forced to further reduce their teaching time. It would be incorrect to assume that this pay cut comes with the benefit of reasonable workload and sufficient ‘off-duty’ time. There’s an important distinction between ‘full-time’ and ‘part-time’ teaching as it applies to teacher’s actual workload. Part-time may mean less physical time spent in the classroom, but the volume of non-teaching tasks still required of teachers is staggering. Schools Week reported that due to ‘unpaid planning, preparation and assessment time,’ part-time teachers worked 40 hours per week – what many of us would qualify as full-time work.  The 2016 Teacher Workload Survey found that nearly a third of part-time teachers worked 40% of their total work hours outside school. In comparison, a quarter of full-time teachers reported a similar distribution of work. This amount of work outside paid hours is unreasonable for full- and part-time teachers alike and is indicative of the sheer volume of non-teaching tasks currently diluting the time and energy teachers should, and want, to be directing towards teaching time.

Yet, implementing new Edtech can itself be a ‘non-teaching task’ that unduly drains teachers’ time if done improperly.  It’s integral programs are installed in a conscious way – there must be sufficient support and training to shorten span between launching a program and using it successfully. Teachers should not waste uncessicary time figuring out a new program – it’s up to Edtech companies to make the transition as easy as possible, and to ensure their technology is being used to its full potential. Without proper support, teachers may be more likely to deem new Edtech solutions cumbersome, or not worth their time, because they are putting in time and effort and observing inadequate return. CENTURY ensures schools feel confident using the platform via comprehensive training sessions and readily-available help – CENTURY support remains a visible, useful resource the entire time a school is using the platform.

Edtech services must be organic and flexible. One-size-fits-all solutions are insufficient. Static solutions can only address specific problems in certain contexts, but no issue – especially one as multifaceted as reducing workload or personalising learning – is actually so simple. We aren’t just talking about in-program adaptability like CENTURY’s AI powered programme. There are constant advances in educational technology and research – keeping a tuned ear to these developments and making informed improvements ensures a platform remains innovative and effective. Edtech solutions must consciously heed feedback from users – program development should be collaborative so that the platform is always moving to best meet users’ needs.  CENTURY’s FE content, for example, was generated from a UFI funded study observing the platform’s viability in several FE colleges. Instead of retroactively prescribing set content, material was built from real-time feedback concurrent to program usage. The solution to alleviating the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks is twofold: use Edtech to minimise time spent on administrative tasks but prioritise program support and functionality.