Niall Dosad

Strategic Lead, SCITTELS

Following on from my last blog, Workload: is ITE an afterthought?’ here we present the steps we have taken to reduce staff workload practices. At SCITTELS, we are ever evolving and still have a long way to go into really tackling the workload challenges. However, the core take-home messages are: change what is within your power; if it doesn’t improve outcomes for trainees, should you be doing it? And, look after yourself and your team – you’re too important.

1. Human factors at the heart

The importance of putting people first should not be underestimated. Every week, the team meet and a key question on the agenda is: how is your workload? By discussing it, we can think of easy solutions to support all members, and it also helps knowing you’re not alone.

Another question we ask is: does it impact trainee progress? This is explored in the context of all of our processes. Every time there is a concern, somebody misses a deadline or something just seems unnecessarily convoluted – ask the question. If the answer is ‘no’, then remove it or at least review it for the following year.

We have reduced deadlines. OK, this is never popular in the first instance, but this is where good people-focused communication really helps. There are no deadlines for Monday anymore, instead they are close of play on Friday, and this means that people can’t work over the weekend. Some may find this unsupportive as they would like to do so, but since forcing their hand, the responses have been positive. Likewise, we set all deadlines before the holidays as opposed to at the end of them.

Our approach doesn’t stop there. When discussing and developing documentation, the core question is: can it fit on a page? If it can’t, how can we make it? Of course, this isn’t always possible, but aim for a page and if it ends up being two, it’s a lot better than five! Personally I have created an action plan with self-development targets and avoided using previous formats and formats from other providers. By doing this, I am doing what works best for me, for my team, and ultimately reducing my workload.

This year, we hired a new tutor to join the SCITTELS team and I decided to make them Pastoral Lead as an area of responsibility. Like many providers we have a withdrawal rate of around 5-10% per year. I wanted to see whether having someone devoted to trainees’ pastoral needs would help reduce this. The impact has been astounding. In the Autumn term alone, our Pastoral Lead held over 40 sessions. Every session offered was taken by a trainee. We did not have a single withdrawal in the Autumn.

2. Make technology work for you

By setting up a bespoke online system, we have been able to tailor a process where we could eradicate email tennis. Trainees are required to submit their weekly training plans every Friday, reviewing the previous week and setting targets for the following. This all used to be done via email, which requires saving, uploading, writing an email, sending, this being received by the tutor, downloading the document, editing, making suggestions, saving, uploading, writing an email and the cycle repeats.

The bureaucracy involved in such a simple process was using up so much time and energy. With the new system, the document can be worked on collaboratively, no emails needed and when something has been submitted or responded to, you get a notification on your phone. This is also much more suited to the way our current trainees want to work. Having access through an app, a one-stop-shop of information where all core documents are stored, links to calendars and deadlines clearly displayed and located, has been great. Using online forms has reduced the amount of paper we print, the quality of evaluations we receive are better and monitoring and analysing the results are done for you.

Organising meetings have also traditionally been a pain: finding a date and time between staff, trainees and schools can end up with a never ending trail of emailed negotiations…and re-negotiations! We have started using doodle.com to arrange staff meetings, pastoral meetings with trainees and tutor visits. You can suggest times you are available and you can all click on a date and time which suits everyone best, or you can put out a date for all trainees and they can select a time and date on a first-come, first-served basis. Again, this is about supporting your tutors’ workload as well as your trainees.

We have filmed trainee/mentor meetings and shared them on our online system; this gives mentors and trainees guidance of how to have the meeting. It is also very structured and is clear that this meeting should be 30-60 minutes long. We also provided a special platform for mentors which has allowed all stakeholders to ask questions in a safe environment and has provided easy access to all paperwork and dates.

3. Productivity for performance

I read How to Be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott a couple of years ago and seriously changed my working life. Simple things like not having your emails running all day but having allocated time to answer and deal with emails, checking how many windows are open on your browser or documents at the same time, ensuring that a job is done and closed down before starting another, and choosing when to ‘go dark’ to get on with your work without distraction has radically improved my productivity.

The book explains that you need to adopt different Ninja types at different times such as: ruthlessness, stealth and camouflage and Zen-like calm. The greatest aspect that has helped me in my own work has been the 80:20 rule. Essentially, a lot of what we do requires a lot of effort and little impact, so the 80:20 rule is simple; 20% effort should equal 80% impact, so be ruthless when planning and working. Is what you’re doing having 80% impact? If not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

I delivered a training session to trainees based on resilience and wellbeing and this message came in at the end, explaining just because that is what everyone does, doesn’t mean you have to. Trainees have a habit of getting into work when it opens, leaving as it closes and work all evening. In this length of time, all school-related work should be done for the day. I really do suggest reading it. The best bit, in my opinion, is it’s not an education-based book!

Provider details: SCITTELS (SCITT in East London Schools)

Website: http://www.scittels.co.uk/

Twitter: @ScittelsSchool


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