Teachers within the schools and across the network of schools involved in the research projects, worked collaboratively on projects which culminated in either the development of recommendations, for workload reduction practices or, in the majority of cases, developing and trialling the practices. The research projects typically administered pre-intervention surveys to ascertain teacher perspectives of time spent on, and challenges associated with, data management, planning and marking activities. Post-intervention surveys, interviews and focus groups were then used to gain an understanding about the impact of the intervention on teacher workload and pupil outcomes. Within some of the studies, data relating to pupils’ perspectives was also collected through pupil surveys, interviews and focus groups.
The overall conclusion is that those studies that reported the implementation of interventions also reported successful reductions in teacher workload without impacting negatively on pupil outcomes. Additionally, studies that developed recommendations for, but did not trial, interventions reported that teachers were confident that once implemented, the interventions would lead to a reduction in their workload.
Organisational and cultural factors were significant in both facilitating and impeding the implementation of new initiatives. Organisational factors which facilitated the implementation of teacher workload reduction practices include: commitment from school senior leaders, eg. through the provision of designated time for implementing new practices and policies and ensuring staff understand the underpinning principles, values and benefits of these; opportunities for staff to discuss the impact of new initiatives and ensure there are no detrimental effects on pupil progress; the modelling of good practice by school senior leaders; and effective technology systems for storing and sharing resources. The cultural factors which supported the implementation of new initiatives include: a well-developed collaborative ethos within and across schools; and all teachers being equally highly committed to the implementation of the new initiatives.
Organisational factors which impeded the introduction of new initiatives include: school senior leaders being resistant to allowing time for staff to receive training in, and to implement the new initiatives; and school accountability measures that place heavy workload burdens on teachers, eg. through lengthy or frequent reporting requirements. Cultural factors which were detrimental in supporting the implementation of new initiatives include; the guilt that some teachers associate with time saving methods, and the resistance to trying new ways of working; pressure from parents, pupils, governors and/or Ofsted to conform to a perceived ‘good practice’ model of data management, planning and marking which entail time consuming working practices; and teacher sub-cultures with negative dispositions to collaborative working within and across schools.
When considering teacher workload reduction strategies around data management, planning and marking, it must be acknowledged that activities associated with each of these cannot be viewed in isolation as activities in one area will impact on other areas. Consideration, therefore, needs to be given to the interaction between the three areas, and to how strategies relating to each can be integrated.