To contextualise this, I am Head of English and drama at a medium-sized secondary school in South Bristol. I have an 18 month old and I have just completed a part time M.A. at the IoE (Distance Learning). I am the breadwinner; my husband earns the living wage. You categorically cannot live on it. He’s a skilled worker but it doesn’t pay as a skilled job should. So, last February I went back to work full-time and within about 4 weeks of returning, I realised that something had to give. I’m still learning how to make these adaptations and I still have days when I don’t see my daughter for more than an hour. I organised a day of childcare this half-term in order to catch up on bits and pieces, but generally I am enjoying my job and feel that I have a decent work-life balance. One thing that may be relevant is the culture of my school. You are categorically not judged if you leave at 4.30pm. I appreciate that this is not the case in all schools.
I’ll keep this short, anyway. It’s just a list of what I’ve done to ensure everything keeps running as it should. Here goes:
- I mark one piece of class work every fortnight. I plan for it, the students have a lesson on this objective and everything else gets SPaG marking. The EBI comment (school-wide policy) is entirely based on that one objective. That’s how assessment should be but with 9 hours of lessons a fortnight, we inevitably cover more than one AO. Sticking to one objective for marking means that you get into a rhythm of comments for improvement – just one set of EBI statements, differentiated according to the work.
- I set homework that doesn’t require marking. For KS4, this involves a set of 5 quotations to learn every week. KS3 have spellings. It’s tested and marked in class. The quotation tasks are cumulative and all for the GCSE literature texts. Here’s an example: 2-homework-mov . We have an enormous bank of spellings (all based on the KS2 sound groups) for KS3 which I am also happy to share. I’m just in the process of sorting out DropBox for it.
- Everything is planned collaboratively and lesson-by-lesson resources (including PowerPoints for those who want them) are divvied up. Then we just have to differentiate by class. Of course, there is no obligation to use these exact resources – as long as the objectives are met then teachers are free to teach as they wish. However, using these has reduced my workload by about 70%.
- I mark 15 books a day. Stating the obvious, maybe, but I am disciplined with it and it works. I can manage it in a normal working day. Weekends are then almost entirely free of marking. There are exceptions when I just can’t do it, but I’m getting better and it does help.
- I’ve given up trying to be superwoman. Before I had my baby, everything was super-polished. Presenting at briefing? I’d make a high-quality, well-edited film (I’m now cringing at the weeks this took me, for pity’s sake!). I would complete exam analysis almost down to each child. I would mark every single little thing that every single child wrote. I ran extra parents’ evenings for the faculty. I marked Y11 books after every lesson. I sewed fabric bunting for displays. Now, they get what they should get from a Head of English and you know what? The wheels haven’t fallen off. It’s been okay.
* Our school marking policy is for books to be marked with TIM once a fortnight.