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5 activities that teachers have to do that have little or no impact on results

Steve Waters: Founder/Director Teach Well Alliance

This is a provocative blog. Its intention is to make us question long-established and often unquestioned practices and activities which schools require teachers to do that are time-consuming, have little or no impact on results and can increase workload and stress. If some or all of the time these activities demand of teachers could be re-channelled into focusing on the core business of the teacher - teaching and learning, and building relationships with pupils, teachers' wellbeing would improve and results would rise. We are in an education crisis. Teachers are leaving because of the pressure they are under. We must question everything that schools require teachers to do - including activities that have become an unquestioned part of our education system. We can't carry on doing what we've always done.

So, what is the Activity number 1? In no particular order: Uniform.

Some of the issues related to uniform

In recent weeks, we have seen the issue of school uniform occupy air time on news programmes, column inches in newspapers and vigorous debates on social media. This has arisen because of two issues: the unusually hot weather and gender. Schools have had to consider how to relax strict uniform rules to enable pupils to cope with the heat - removing ties or allowing girls to go bare-legged instead of wearing tights, for example. There have also been arguments about whether pupils should be allowed to wear shorts instead of long trousers and whether shorts should be of the same material as the trousers.

To avoid discriminating against pupils in gender transition or those who wish to identify with the opposite gender, some schools have banned skirts so that boys and girls both wear trousers. The discussions about uniform and gender have also led to some girls who, in some schools have to wear ties asking why girls are being made to wear the dress code of the male gender. In one school last year, some boys turned up in skirts, arguing that it was discriminatory not to be allowed to wear the same uniform as the girls. There is one school recently who required girls to wear tights, arguing that bare legs were immodest and would attract the attention of boys.

The time spent on resolving these and similar issues add to teachers' burdens and deflect energy from the core business of teaching.

What do teachers spend their time doing in relation to uniform?

  • Drawing up the uniform policy
  • Agreeing it with governors
  • Informing parents of the uniform code
  • Checking daily that each student is wearing it correctly
  • Disciplining students that are not wearing it correctly: phoning/writing home; making them wear a spare part of the uniform; sending them out of class, putting them in detention; putting them in isolation and supervising them for the day; setting detention punishments after school, supervising the detention. 
  • Dealing with pupils' (and sometimes parents') reactions to enforcement of the uniform code.

Question: What difference would it make to teachers' workload and levels of stress in your school if uniform was not compulsory?

In the next section of the blog, we will look at activity number 2: Mobile phones

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