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Caught in the middle: managing workload as a middle leader

Supporting colleagues and inspiring students is a huge part of the middle leader's role, but how do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 06, 2017 | Health & wellbeing

By Winston Poyton, director at Capita SIMS    

According to the government’s Teacher Workload Survey, middle leaders and classroom teachers work more than 53 hours a week. Many middle leaders would likely tell you that the hours they spend driving school improvement do not leave much time for anything else.

But, with a few changes to the way you work, you can make some key efficiency gains. Here are my four top tips to save time and help you work towards a healthier work-life balance.

1.  Nurture your team

Good middle leaders bring out the best in their teams and you know the strengths and skills of the staff in your department. By nurturing your staff and supporting the professional development of your team, you will be in a much stronger position to be able to delegate.

Carry out regular appraisals and identify opportunities for training and development. This is crucial to ensuring you can build a team with the confidence and skills to rise to a challenge and take on some of the important responsibilities of the department.

2.  Support good decision-making

Middle leaders turn school or academy group strategy into outstanding classroom practice every day. But this can only be achieved with a clear understanding of school performance.

Your school or MAT is measured against the Department for Education’s (DfE) local and national school performance criteria, so engage your team in monitoring the school’s success in meeting these. 

A clear picture of achievement is essential for measuring the impact of interventions and monitoring the performance of pupils and groups to keep them on track

One way to do this is to make the school’s improvement plan the focus of department meetings. Give staff access to the pupil data in your school’s management information system (MIS), too. A clear picture of achievement is essential for measuring the impact of interventions and monitoring the performance of pupils and groups, such as children on free school meals or the gifted and talented, to keep them on track.

3.  Engage the whole team in sharing best practice

Responsibility for raising standards is at the heart of a middle leader’s role and can make for a heavy workload, but with the help of colleagues, your school can realise some quick wins.

If a student group is underperforming in English, but doing well in geography, engage the team in identifying what it is that the geography department is doing so successfully. Is it a different teaching style or a new resource that has helped pupils progress, for example? It might be possible to adapt best practice for other subject areas.

Encourage colleagues to adopt a whole-school approach to recording data such as details of attendance, achievement and conduct. This is essential to getting a holistic picture of progress across the school. 

4.  Ensure quick and easy access to data

Spending hours trawling through the school system to find the information you need can contribute to a burgeoning workload.

Provide the tools staff need to analyse data simply. This will ensure consistency, help you to sharpen the focus on pupil outcomes and support progress towards your school improvement objectives.

Your school’s data manager can ensure easy access to key pupil data across your team to help them make informed decisions, quickly. When stored centrally, there is no need for information to be keyed in multiple times by different staff members too. This saves time and makes it easier for your team to access the data needed to bring your school’s improvement plan to life.

With the help of a talented team, the support of colleagues and up-to-the minute data on pupil progress, middle leaders can take several steps nearer to achieving the ultimate goal of a healthy work-life balance.

For more information, read a middle leader’s guide to data. 

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