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What Teachers Tapped This Week #41 - 9th July 2018

9 July 2018

At the weekend 79% of teachers watched the World Cup. 

World Cup Fans GIF by nss sports - Find & Share on GIPHY

Will more be watching Wednesday’s game, or are you all trapped at the school concert? We shall find out. But until then, here’s what we learned this week from your tapping…

1. Emails take up almost a whole teaching day each week

How much time do emails take for an average teacher? One primary headteacher recently guestimated that her staff “send around 10 emails a day, and read about 20”. Assuming that writing an email takes 3 minutes, and reading one takes 2 minutes, this adds up to almost 6 hours a week. That’s almost a full teaching day just on email. Over the year, it’s 25 working days – five whole weeks!

But how accurate are those estimates? We found that 32% of teachers send fewer than 5 emails per day, while 36% sent between 5 and 10.

But there is a huge difference in email use depending on primary/secondary and job role.

Secondary teachers are sending far more emails – and 13% of headteachers say they send OVER 50 emails per day. 

What about reading? The estimate was around 20 per day.

Again we can see a substantial difference between primary and secondary teachers…

Perhaps the most worrying group here are the secondary middle leaders who will still carry a reasonably high teaching load but around a third are receiving over 30 emails per day, and writing over 20.

Some schools have introduced policies to handle this deluge. Secondaries in particular are starting to restrict all-staff emails.

Secondary schools are also increasingly limiting out-of-hours emails, though this is still rare.

A fair point raised by teachers on social media is that face-to-face conduct can take much longer. If emails aren’t allowed then the alternative can be wandering around a large school looking for people. In a primary school, it may be easier to find colleagues, hence the reduction in emails. If staff are spread across a large site, and they share pupils, then there is an increased need for communication and email is the most useful tool.

However, we come back to this point that at 10 sent emails and 20 being read, that’s 6 hours of work a week. Is it the best use?


Because we do the analysis each Monday, questions that we ask over a weekend are less likely to make it into the blog. One recent set of questions we missed out, and which a teacher asked us to publish, related to a set of choices.

If teachers are given the choice of a curriculum that will be successful for different types of pupils, which do they prefer?

The first choice was between programmes which guaranteed either that 100% of pupils would get a medium grade, or 80% would get a top grade and 20% the lowest.

Teachers were somewhat more egalitarian, favouring a programme that got everyone to a medium standard. However, 44% of teachers opted to get 80% of their pupils to a top standard, even though that meant trading off the achievements of 20% of their pupils.

Primary teachers were much more likely to be egalitarian (green), whereas secondary teachers were almost evenly divided.

From this, one might assume that most teachers would never trade off a worse performance by some pupils in favour of better performance for others, especially in primary school.

But we decided to make one more offer. This time we added a programme that got 60% of pupils the top grade, 30% the medium, and just 10% would receive a lower grade. It worked: 57% of teachers took the deal.

Secondary teachers particularly liked the deal, with 63% choosing it.

Primary teachers were more reluctant, but it was still the most popular answer. 

Why do a thought experiment like this? Because it shows what politicians and policymakers are balancing at any one time. Any new initiative will usually have winners and losers. The question is how many winners and losers can people stand if given a set of choices. They don’t even have to be real: in politics, a lot of promises are theoretical. Also, it shows that teachers won’t all make the same calculations about which resources or curriculum programmes are the most useful for pupils. Professionals bring different values to their roles.


Summer reading time is on the way, but how much have teachers spent on education books this year? 

Not everyone was chuffed about fessing up!

Nearly 1 in 4 teachers spent over £75 of their own money on education books this year 

Headteachers may have the biggest salaries but they also spend more of it on their own professional learning – with 20% of heads saying they spent over £100 on education books.

Based on the shelfie pictures we’ve seen on twitter this weekend, it seems like some of you have spent a lot more even than that!

A solution, perhaps?

4. More evidence on SATs maladministration

This week we split the panel in two, and asked primary teachers different questions to those in secondary.

For primary, we repeated questions about SATs maladministration we asked earlier in the year.

Again, we found a substantial minority of teachers were either asked or encouraged to bend rules.

Compared to our last survey on this, in November, we find more teachers say they have not been encouraged to do ANY of these things. For the other categories, however, the percentages are similar.

A cynical view in education is that schools with top Ofsted grades have been partaking in this sort of maladministration at higher rates. However, we found incident rates are higher in RI and inadequate schools (possibly because staff are under more pressure to improve).

We also used the opportunity to drill into primary testing. Co-founder Professor Becky Allen has written before about standardised assesments used in schools alongside SATs to try and either predict or baseline where pupils are in their learning.

The most common is the ‘rising stars’ tests, with 41% of primaries saying they use them. 

We also found that around half of primary school ask teachers to provide data to senior managers on a half-termly basis whereas the other half ask for it on a termly basis. 

To track data, primaries use a range of tools including  Target Tracker and SIMS. It’s a diverse market, however, meaning teachers moving schools will often face a different system in each place they work.

5. Primary teachers spend hours searching online

If primary teachers save time on email, one thing they appear to spend more time on is searching online for resources. 

While a quarter of secondary teachers spent zero time searching online, primary teachers, the majority of primary teachers spent at least one hour this week searching online, and around one in six spent over 3 hours.

Remember: anything you do for three hours per week is equivalent to doing it for 14 work days per year!

What is it that primary teachers are looking for? We need to look into that further. But better resources for the broader primary curriculum could be a serious way to reduce primary teacher workload.

6. What About The Year 8s?

Finally, this week we asked a series of questions about Year 8 setting. The questions are part of a bigger piece of research so we aren’t releasing further analysis as yet. However, the daily results showed there appears to be a small shift towards mixed-ability teaching. It’s subtle, and some teachers said their school had stopped mixed-ability teaching in the past five years, but more seem to have gone in the mixed direction than the opposite. Is your school one those against the trend? Tweet and tell us why!


7. Finally, as ever, we learned that you really love our daily tips, so here are the links for last week:

Using Ofsted reports for leading schools?

How to cram and not forget

Sexism and racism will never diminish

How you take your pizza may tell you how you want your knowledge

Why technical, project-based schools don’t always work in the US

How to do a seating plan – step-by-step


Right folks – over and out for another week…

In the meantime, keep sharing what we are doing. Here’s a powerpoint slide (with script), a PDF, and a black-and-white one-pager to help.

Remember, we need more of you before we can do the really exciting and detailed analysis!

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