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Too much marking and not enough teaching

Academy teachers spending an 'unmanageable' equivalent of one day a week on marking, according to Canvas research

Posted by Stephanie Broad | April 24, 2016 | Teaching

Teachers in the UK are spending the equivalent of a whole day every week on marking and reporting, a new study reveals. 

The research, from Canvas VLE, found that teachers in academies feel the burden most prominently, with seven in 10 (71%) saying the time spent on reporting has become unmanageable (versus 66% of all teachers). More than three quarters (78%) of academy staff blame the rise of inspections for this trend, and the pressure of additional paperwork that comes with it.

The study comes at a time when academies are firmly in the spotlight, with recent policy to transform all schools into academies putting additional scrutiny on start-up or converter schools. The vast majority (83%) of academy teachers say they hadn’t expected there to be so much admin when they chose a career in teaching - and with marking and reporting taking up almost a fifth of their working week, teaching professionals say this unexpected workload impacts negatively on classroom time with students (72%). 

According to the Department of Education, on average, UK teachers work 57.5 hours a week, but tasks such as lesson preparation, marking, supervising children and other administration result in just 19.3 hours being spent in the actual classroom. Nearly nine in 10 (89%) academy teachers say the pressure to demonstrate a continual understanding of how students are performing means they spend more time on marketing and reporting than ever.

Technology, including Virtual Learning Environments, can help speed up marking and collating data for reporting. Among those who use it, two thirds (67%) find it easier to monitor and track students’ progress, easing their workload. 

Craig Ring, music teacher at Rooks Heath Academy, said: “Since we started using a Virtual Learning Environment in our school we’ve seen first hand the positive impact it’s had on both students and teachers. We have just been marking GCSE coursework and the amount of time it’s saving us is enormous. Plus, all of the feedback is in one place for a student and even throughout the Easter break we have had students updating their work within hours of receiving feedback. We’re also able to collate data at the click of a mouse, which massively reduces our workload. It’s a very useful tool.” 

Samantha Blyth, director of schools at Canvas, said: “There is no doubt that teachers in the UK do a fantastic job of multitasking; juggling marking, reporting and lesson planning, with face to face teaching in the classroom. But there is a growing perception that the sheer amount of admin is leaving them unable to do the job they love – to actually teach their students. 

“This is where technology can play a vital role – online marking and reporting not only helps teachers, but in turn frees up more time to spend with students.  When used effectively, tech then stops getting in the way of teaching and starts to enable it – leading to more engaging lessons and better outcomes for both students and schools.”

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