The True Test of EdTech: Easing Teacher Workloads for Better Education

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As everyone knows, there’s a troubling problem in primary schools. The problem? Teacher workload.

Hang on though! This is a topic that’s had loads of air time over the last few years. But in this blog, I want to turn the attention to the responsibility EdTech businesses have in adding to – and helping solve – this long-lasting issue.

Teacher admin hours and marking hours are stretched – almost to breaking point. Actually, absolutely to breaking point for some people.

And it’s not just the teachers who are the victim of this workload overload; there’s growing evidence that all this pressure is negatively impacting pupil outcomes in the classroom.

So my thought is, it’s time we – as EdTech providers – start looking at this problem at a deeper level. It’s time to scrutinise your product and take this stuff much more seriously than it has been previously.

I’m calling on you all to look at every part of your systems and seriously review them to see where you can improve the teacher’s experience to free up as much time as possible.

I know that many EdTech businesses will say that they put the customers first, and save time for teachers. But how many of them are just using that for their marketing? And how many actually have conversations internally that are 100% focused on solving the teacher workload problem?

I’ve been around this market for 20 years or so, and I can tell you: it’s a lot less than you’d like to think. Solve the teacher workload problem and the amazing byproduct is pupil outcomes!

Don’t get me wrong, there are great companies out there that do understand their responsibility in this problem. But not enough.

The Toll of Excessive Workload

The whole thing about teachers being overworked isn’t just some grumble you hear around the staff room. It’s a big deal – a real glitch in the system that spirals into all sorts of problems, from how motivated teachers feel to how engaged pupils are in class, and even how well they actually learn.

The DFEs survey showed that teachers work about 50 hours a week on average. Much of this time isn’t spent on creating and delivering engaging classroom activities but on marking and admin tasks. No surprise teachers feel exhausted. With such a workload, keeping the classroom vibrant is a huge challenge!

Just like anybody at work, when teachers are fresher and have a bit more ‘me’ time, they can bring so much more energy and creativity to their work. And, for me at least, there’s no more important work than delivering education to our children.

I bet most of us can remember at least one great lesson or teacher. The ones that we’re fun and inspiring. That’s the kind of teaching that really sticks with you. That really has an impact.

But the thing is, with the way things stand for teachers, finding the balance to provide that is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.

The Injustice in the EdTech Market

Imagine if something that’s meant to make our lives easier ends up doing the exact opposite. Not good! Well, I’m afraid that’s true in a large part of the EdTech market.

EdTech, is booming! Everywhere you look, new products are promising to whisk education into the digital age. And that’s fantastic – in theory. But the thing is, when you speak with teachers about this stuff, they say it feels like companies are missing the mark when it comes to what teachers actually need.

There’s this massive contradiction staring us in the face. Teachers are all for innovation in education – who wouldn’t be? But it gets a bit daft when these shiny new tools make things more complicated instead of streamlining the workload.

So we’ve got to ask ourselves – is there a better way we can provide this solution to schools?

This is something that every single EdTech business should be looking at, and seriously considering. We have a part to play in the teacher workload problem. And, if we take it seriously, we can have the positive impact that everyone wants.

Evidence for Change

A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) shines a light on something pretty crucial – when teachers are happier, students tend to do better.

It’s not rocket science, really. Cut down on the endless marking and admin, and teachers have more time to craft lessons that spark curiosity, offer one-on-one support, and tailor learning to each pupil’s needs.

Now, picture a teacher who’s run off their feet, stressed to the max. It becomes almost impossible for them to lead vibrant, thought-provoking classrooms where pupils learn to think deeply and creatively and learn skills they’ll need down the road. Plus, when stress becomes too much, we see more teachers taking sick days or even leaving the profession altogether. This doesn’t just mess with the flow of learning that week; it actually dials down the quality of education our pupils are getting through the entire year.

It all adds up! Looking after our teachers isn’t just about making their lives easier—it’s about securing a brighter future for teachers and pupils.

A Philosophical Shift

What’s required is a philosophical shift in how we perceive the role of teachers and how we provide tools to support their work lives.

Valuing teacher well-being translates to investing in our children’s futures. It entails systemic changes. EdTech providers can help by looking deeply at what we provide and considering how to reduce unnecessary tasks.

I’m calling on you all to look at every part of your systems and seriously review them to see where you can improve the teacher’s experience to free up as much time as possible.

I’ve recently been working on an application that helps teachers mark writing. And we’ve been aiming to get the ‘time-to-value’ for teachers to 2 minutes. That’s from the point of logging in, to the point of logging out. We worked seriously on this question: “How can we add value to the next lesson within a 2-minute timeframe?”.

I’m really happy to report that we got it to around 1 minute 30 seconds!

And this is the type of work, that I’m asking other EdTech providers to undertake.

Please, please, please… all EdTech businesses! Invest in your EdTech product to ensure you make the reduction of teacher workload a central design principle.

Only then will we truly enhance both the teaching profession and the educational outcomes of our pupils.

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