The problem with workload in a small school

When I started my first teaching placement the leadership team was tiny, a teaching head and three (teaching) deputies. No extended leadership team and very few support staff. The exams officer was a teacher, the cover manager was a teacher, the pastoral team was made of teachers and the office was minimally staffed and yet the school functioned well.

Fast forward twenty years and the size of leadership teams has expanded well beyond this. A typical secondary school might have a head (possibly working with the CEO of a MAT), deputy heads, assistant heads, associate assistant heads and other leaders (with a variety of titles and job descriptions to match).

Unfortunately working in a small school means that there are fewer people with whom to split the workload. You can’t promote the whole teaching staff to SLT but there aren’t enough people to spread the workload between. I sat down this weekend and tried to recreate my working week using my school calendar, my emails (400 in one week), my printing log, my timecard and other systems we have at school.

What this told me is that my role as deputy head is very wide.  This week has seen me doing everything from teaching through to writing an emergency recovery plan should disaster strike.  My NPQH was extremely poor preparation for the breadth of the role in a small school but time for effective CPD is limited by time and finances.

My role includes

  • Teaching science 2.5 days per week (including 3 new KS4 courses in two years which I’ve had to write and resource from scratch) and no science technician
  • Designated safeguarding lead for the academy
  • Exams officer for JCQ centres (fortunately I don’t do the bulk entries)
  • BTEC Quality nominee
  • BTEC Internal verifier
  • Aim Awards lead – overseeing qualifications, doing entries, tracking progress
  • Aim Awards approved internal verifier (we have direct claims status as a result of my experience in this role)
  • NCFE administrator and internal moderator
  • Managing day to day staffing (including dealing with supply agencies) and reporting absences to HR
  • Responsibility for assessment across academy – assessment system, targets, tracking data, reporting to governors and regular meetings with data lead for MAT
  • Stonewall school champion (we are now a silver school)
  • Designated person for looked after children (attending and minuting PEPs, writing provision maps, overseeing LAC pupil premium)
  • Fire marshall (we had a fire drill this week, I had to do staff, student and visitor headcount when we evacuated)
  • Showing prospective parents around the school
  • Attending governor meetings – full governors and portfolio groups
  • Updating school website with statutory requirements – policies, logos, updates, governor minutes
  • Public relations – updating school website and writing press releases
  • PSCHE lead for the school (write scheme of work overview and assemblies rota, British Values)
  • School SIMS expert – I’m the only one who has a functional knowledge of Nova T6 and cover manager, InTouch etc.
  • Other SLT roles – learning walks, link meetings, school improvement overview, speaking to parents etc

Writing this list makes me appreciate what a broad and extensive skillset I must have to be successful in my role.  Unfortunately, the number of roles that I am expected to cover means that I can’t dedicate much time as I would like to each one and I become a jack of all trades and a master of none.  After six years in this position, the time has come for me to make some important decisions about my future, in a job that I love but can’t do justice to.  What makes it even worse is that I’m not the only one in this position and there must be thousands of teachers and leaders in small schools grappling with the same decision.


Photo © Sarah


One reply on “The problem with workload in a small school”

  1. I’m in a very similar position, assistant head of a small secondary school for students with S.E.M.H. Like you I teach science and many of the roles you list. My teaching load is somewhat heavier, 4 days a week (80% of full timetable), I’ve also now reached a “crunch point”, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with being unable to devote the time required to these many roles. My teaching is suffering as a result and it is this I feel most guilty about. I’m 58 next May and seriously looking at early retirement. Shame because I still love my teaching above all the other roles.

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