Ten tips to avoid exam stress

Exam season is upon us again and it can be a fine balance for teachers between motivating students and causing undue stress or anxiety.

Here are some helpful things students can do to keep motivated and stay healthy too. This list originated several years ago from an A level psychology task I gave my students to do for a unit on stress – use what they had learned to write advice for students who had upcoming exams. I have developed it over the years and this latest version is influenced by advice from our School Health Nurse, Deb Burdett, the NHS,  and the charity Mind.
 

Ten tips to beat exam stress

  1. Get Organised. Make sure you know what exams you have, what kind of questions they will have and when they are.
  2. Manage your time. Make a revision timetable. Make sure you build in breaks.
  3. Stay In control by sticking to your plan.
  4. The right Environment. Work somewhere that is light, has enough space and is distraction-free.
  5. Boost your confidence. Use a revision journal, recall things that have gone well in the past and visualise your success.
  6. Eat Healthily and stay hydrated. Avoid ‘energy’ drinks: they give the illusion of alertness but impair your performance.
  7. Sleep. Get enough sleep; a tired brain does not work well.
  8. Friends & family. Let them know you have exams and need to revise. Keep in touch during your planned breaks.
  9. Avoid life changes: For example starting a new relationship.
  10. Nerves: Recognise that signs of exam nerves like ‘butterflies in the stomach’ or a dry mouth are just your body preparing for action. 

We include this in our revision guides we give to students and it has also just gone out as the regular (‘Dear Deb…’) item from our School Health Nurse in our school newsletter.

I hope you find this list useful. Please feel free to use and adapt it as you wish. I’d be interested in which resources other schools use.

Students get more help and advice on student life from these pages on the Mind website and advice directed at parents and carers can be found on this area of the NHS Choices website.

  
April 2017 Update

Our old school nurse Deb Burdett has been promoted on to another area, but we still use the materials we produced together and our current school nurse, covering more than one school, keeps up the good work. We have run special sessions on tackling exam anxiety this year which have proved popular.

This list is made up of simple, but proven advice. The websites cited provide further guidance and signpost additional help for students who need it.

Ten ways you know it’s the start of term.

Feeling a bit disoriented after that lovely holiday? Here’s my top ten list of things that tell you the new term has started!

  1. You breathe out a sigh of relief that the waistband of your work clothes still fits – and a button pops off.
  2. When you finally find your lanyard again you realise that the age gap between your staff ID photo and reality has widened yet further.
  3. As a result of the ‘holiday IT update’ your computer crashes when you try to log in.
  4. There are now 247 emails in your inbox.
  5. Some one asks’Sir?’ / ‘Miss?’ And for a moment you wonder who they’re talking to.
  6. The bells, the bells! Your life becomes Pavlovian again.
  7. At least a dozen new educational acronyms (NEAs) seem to have been invented since the end of last term.
  8. You scald yourself with your coffee, not having time to let it cool down.
  9. You spend more time with your legs crossed as you can no longer just pop to the loo when you need to.
  10. After your busy day, you realise that you have to get up at THAT TIME again tomorrow…

So, how many did you score out of ten at the start of this term? Remember, though, what you do makes a real difference and at least there’s no time to be bored!

Anything I missed? What would you put in the top ten?

Quote of the Week – A Third Year of Inspiration

One of my first posts was about inspirational quotes that I use with colleagues at school, using one for each Of the 38 weeks of the term. In 2015 I followed this up with a second year’s  worth of quotes. You can find these collections here:

Here’s the third helping, with thanks to all those who have sent quotes that inspire them.

  1. I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather.  Haim Ginott
  2. What we want to see is the child in pursuit of education, not education in pursuit of the child. George Bernard Shaw
  3. There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela
  4. It’s always better to try. Even if you fail and fall, the good people around you will pick you up. Tinie Tempah (via @Chilledu)
  5. A teacher today creates ripples in time that extend to generations yet unborn. Not just impact in the here & now but in the here & forever. Jeff Goldstein
  6. Truly great schools don’t suddenly exist. You grow great teachers first who, in turn, grow a truly great school. John Tomsett
  7. Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, study, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do. Pele (via @10MillionMiler)
  8. Teaching is a beautiful job; as it allows you to see the growth day by day of people entrusted to your care. Pope Francis
  9. In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life. Albert Bandura
  10. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. Joseph Addison
  11. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill
  12. Every child deserves a champion: An adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be. Rita Pierson
  13. Teaching, it turns out, is a team sport, where teachers make each other better fastest by building culture & sharing insights. Doug Lemov
  14. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’ Martin Luther King
  15. The world is changed by your example, not your opinion. Paul Coelho
  16. More than anything else… teaching is about hope. Every child is the teacher’s hope for the future. Education happens when hope exceeds expectation. Teaching is what makes the difference. Andy Hargreaves & Michael Fullan
  17. Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future. Euripedes
  18. Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. George Washington Carver
  19. Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in. Abraham Lincoln
  20. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. G.K.Chesterton
  21. Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. HG Wells
  22. No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child. Abraham Lincoln
  23. Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. H.Jackson Brown Jr.
  24. No matter how may years we’ve been teaching, we should feel a little bit like a rookie every year by trying something new and not being afraid to fail. Heidi Pauer
  25. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. Kofi Annan
  26. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Jane Goodall
  27. A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers. Helen Keller
  28. The only thing you absolutely need to know is where the library is. Albert Einstein
  29. Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. Thomas H. Huxley
  30. If I ran a school, I’d give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes… And then told me what they’d learned from them. Buckminster Fuller
  31. The great aim of education is not knowledge but action. Herbert Spencer
  32. What did you ASK at school today?Richard Feynman
  33. Even when not fully attained, we become better by striving for a higher goal. Victor Frankl
  34. Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted. William Bruce Cameron
  35. Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller
  36. Good colleagues inspire and encourage each other… good colleagues compliment and complement each other. They keep themselves and they keep each other alive. Jonathan Smith (via Sir Tim Brighouse)
  37. Teaching is not something one learns to do, once and for all, and then practises problem free, for a lifetime… Teaching depends on growth and development and is practised in dynamic situations that are never the same twice. Wonderful teachers, young and old, will tell of fascinating insights, new understandings, unique encounters with youngsters, the intellectual puzzle and the ethical dilemmas that provide a daily challenge. Teachers above all must stay alive to this. William Ayers (via Tim Brighouse)
  38. I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. Michael Jordan

I hope you find these quotes useful. Comments are always welcome, as are any quotes you may have found particularly helpful. I’ve done my best to check they are all attributed correctly; please let me know if you spot any errors.

In It To Win It – Top Ten Tips for Attendance

of all the key elements to achieving well at school, attendance has to be the most basic. Unless students are in school we can’t teach them; when absent they miss out on learning. You have to be in it to win it.

We’ve been making year-on-year improvements to attendance at my school for the past few years, but this progress seems to have stalled recently and we need to improve further. As part of my thinking about parental engagement, I decided to ask parents and carers for advice on getting kids to school regularly and on time. After all, it’s parents who have to do this, so who better to ask than those who have been successful? This, and a bit of additional research has led to the following advice:

Top Ten Tips for Attendance

  1. Establish basic routines, like waking up time, that will help your child develop good attendance habits.
  2. Get everything ready for school the night before: uniform, homework, PE kit, packed lunch, etc., so that your child has everything they need for the day. Check if there are any letters from school and anything that needs a signature.
  3. Talk to your child regularly about why going to school every day is important. Set a good example yourself, so your child can see your own commitment to being on time for work and appointments.
  4. Avoid making routine medical or dental appointments during the school day.
  5. Look up the NHS guidelines about when a sick child should be kept off school and when they should attend. Generally, if they have a fever, diarrhoea and/or vomiting, or certain infectious illnesses, they should be at home, but coughs, colds, aches & pains are not a reason to miss school.
  6. Make an emergency plan for who will ensure your child gets to school if you can’t, for example if another of your children is ill. Agree this with someone now: you might be able to help each other out in a crisis.
  7. Let school know if something happens that means your child will have a problem getting to school on time (for example, your car won’t start, or a bus is late).
  8. If your child is absent, work with their teachers to make sure they catch up with the work they missed. Their form tutor will usually be the best point of contact.
  9. If your child starts being reluctant to go to school, find out why and work with teachers to sort out any issues. Just keeping them away will not resolve anything.
  10. Get involved with school. Support school events and perhaps join the PTA. When your children see that you are taking time to get involved, they will take school more seriously too.

Much of this may seem obvious, but I think there is something to think about in the list for most people. For example, I hadn’t thought of making an advance plan for getting my own kids to school if there was a problem.

We received quite a lot of other advice about encouraging teenagers to get out of bed in the morning. This included putting the (very loud) alarm clock out of reach, turning the lights on, and giving a running countdown of time left before having to leave for school. As for buckets of cold water: deary, deary me…

I hope you find these top ten tips useful; if you want to use them, please feel free to do so. Comments are always welcome and if you have any more tips, I’d love to hear them.

Down to Brass Tacks – What Really Makes a Difference?

Earlier this Month, Steven Tierney (@LeadingLearner) wrote a ‘Saturday Thunk’ post about focussing on priorities in the New Year:  Stop Wasting Time. In it he used the phrase “It’s down to brass tacks on this one.” that got me thinking about the things I think really make a difference. Those aspects of the sharp end of teaching that make a real difference to students and staff, and so turn a vision into a reality.

Here’s my list. It isn’t about vision, or the ‘big picture’ but rather the things we do that stem from our vision as a school and that I believe are driving improvement day-by-day.

Attendance:

  • Daily late gate with same-day follow up
  • Call home within 1h of unexplained absence
  • Tutors enquiring after absent students

    Progress:

    • Frequent quality verbal feedback to students
    • High Quality written feedback to students
    • Dedicated improvement & reflection time so students can act on feedback
    • Differentiation including both support and challenge
    • Planning and teaching that responds to student need
    • Targeted support to students with specific needs

      Quality of Teaching:

      • Concern for health and wellbeing of colleagues
      • Collaborative working within and between teams, focussed on a desire to improve outcomes for students
      • Numerous regular opportunities to engage in CPD


      Wellbeing & behaviour:

      • Daily contact with tutor
      • Relationship with teachers – starts with welcome at start of lesson
      • Ready access to nurse / counsellor / chaplain
      • Consistent recognition of achievements
      • Modelling of expectations by staff
      • Consistent use of consequences system
      • Immediate follow-up of incidents by Relevant staff

      Doubtless there are other things that could be added to the list – I’d welcome suggestions of other elements readers think make an impact.

      At the moment our focus at school is to persist with these and to develop other areas including more effective use of collaborative learning in lessons; a future addition to the ‘progress’ list, I hope!

          Let it Go – Achieving a better work-life balance.

          I wrote my original post about using Brandon Smit’s self-regulatory technique to improve work-life balance in January 2016. I then updated it at with some reflections after trying it out for a couple of months. In short, I’d really recommend giving it a go.

          Last year I wrote a post, Getting the Better of Email, about my attempt to deal with email more efficiently (it’s going quite well, thanks for asking). In that post I also mentioned planning my day in 15 minute chunks so that when the unexpected occurs, it only derails what I had planned for a few of these chunks.
          The problem is, what to do with the work that gets derailed? I have to reschedule it and sometimes that will have to be for another day. I often find however that it’s thoughts about this planned-but-unfinished work that intrude into my downtime or prevent me from getting to sleep.

          I recently came across this research paper by Brandon W. Smit,  reported in the British Psychology Society Research Digest here that looks at the effectiveness of a simple technique for dealing with this type of difficulty in ‘detaching’ from work.

          Smit asked workers to create plans of where, when and how to resolve goals they had not yet completed at work. Adapting this for teachers this could be:

          “I’ll go into work tomorrow and after morning staff briefing I’ll collate the data I need so that I can complete the CPD evaluation requested for the Governors’ meeting.”

          He found that for a subset of his participants, those high in job involvement (sounds like teachers to me), this simple planning technique increased their ability to detach from work when at home to a statistically significant extent.

          Putting this together with my previous post, I’m going to start the New Year by using the following elements to try and make a clearer work-life boundary:

          • Segment work tasks into 15-minute blocks, or multiples of them.
          • Define clear goals for each of these work blocks.
          • At the end of the day take stock of the goals I have successfully met and any that remain incomplete.
          • Use Smit’s suggested planning technique to decide when, where and how I’ll deal with unresolved goals.

          February 2016 Update

          I’ve been using this idea for about six weeks now and it really does seem to make a difference. Ending my working day by reviewing what I have achieved and writing a single-sentence plan on how I’ll deal with incomplete tasks or unresolved issues does seem to allow me to detach more from work so family time can be family time. I’m also sleeping better – I no longer lie awake thinking about work issues and the number of times I wake up in the night with work thoughts has reduced to only two occasions in the six week period. It’s also helped me be better organised and more able to prioritise.

          The technique doesn’t, of course, reduce the workload, so it hasn’t stopped the fatigue that comes at the end of a hard day! Nevertheless, I’ve found that using this simple exercise each day has made a real improvement in my work-life balance.

          As ever, I welcome your thoughts and comments. If you decide to give this a go, it would be good to hear how it works out for you.

          Getting the better of email

          I posted this originally at the start of November 2015 and then updated the post at the end of the month with some thoughts on how the strategy was working – see the end of the piece.

          I recently read this article by Kevin Kruse writing in Forbes magazine on dealing with email: How millionaires manage their email. Now, I chose to be a teacher, so obviously I don’t have any interest in becoming a millionaire, and I’m not a subscriber to Forbes (thanks to Maryanne Baumgarten, @mabaumgarten, for tweeting the article). Nevertheless, I get a mountain of email each day and I’ve been trying to find a way of dealing with it more effectively. This seemed as good a place as any to start.

          The author had reviewed the email habits of business millionaires and concluded that there were five basic rules to using it productively.

          1. Unsubscribe from newsletters.
          2. Turn off all notifications.
          3. Think twice before forwarding or copying others in.
          4. Keep emails short.
          5. Process email in three 20-minute periods a day using the ‘four Ds’: delete, delegate, do, defer.

          So, after the half-term holiday, I thought I would give it a go. Here’s how I’m doing after a week:

          1. Unsubscribe from newsletters. Not sure about this – I like having information pushed to me rather than having to search for it. I find some newsletters invaluable, such as the weekly ‘schools news’ from the LA. On the other hand I do find I delete or archive some others after a glance because the content replicates what I’ve seen before, so I need to be more selective. Some ‘newsletters’, though are just disguised adverts – out they go!

          2. Turn of all notifications. Yes yes! Still there’s that temptation – what if I miss something? I’ve decided I’m more likely to miss something important by being distracted by email than by having to look each time my inbox pings.

          3. Think twice about forwarding and copying others in. “Sorry for the mass email”. It may be worse saying you know you’re copying in 200 people who don’t need to know, then still doing it, than just doing it! Mail groups save the sender a bit of time but most systems are now predictive and it doesn’t take long to put the few names I actually want. When copying in, I am trying to be more discerning, finding the balance between who needs to be in the loop and reducing the email load I create for others.

          4. Keep emails short. I found myself writing an email this week and as it got longer, thinking ‘I should write this as an attachment’. If it’s a document others need to consider, I realise it’s easier for all of it’s an attachment. What I find harder is the balance between brevity and courtesy. I like to put a proper salutation. If I haven’t been in touch with someone for a while, I’ll enquire how they are. I’ll then add the main content and sign off with, for example, ‘best wishes’. When I receive emails that don’t include these courtesies, I can feel a bit miffed. But of course, that won’t be the sender’s intention: they are a busy person and the shorter email is just more efficient. If it’s an answer to something I’ve asked, then I’ve got what I wanted. The balance I try to strike is include the courtesies first, but then subsequent emails in a thread can just follow on without salutations, etc, as in a conversation. One caveat: there’s a special place in hell for people who abbreviate ‘best wishes’ to ‘bests’.

          Process emails in 20 minute periods. This one is fun! I’m trying to do it in three 15-minute blocks each day because my colleague @nickjohnrose has been encouraging me to use a time management system of dividing the day into 15 minute segments (this is a variation of the ‘Pomodoro Technique‘ invented by Framcesco Cirillo).  I enjoy dispensing with a full inbox in this time and the ‘four Ds’ seem to be working quite well. The problem is that when I need to write an email to someone, I find myself checking what’s in my inbox – too easy to get caught up! I have also found myself checking my email in an almost involuntary way – I may have an addiction that will prove harder to shake.

          One issue is the expectations of colleagues. Up to know I have given the impression that I may respond at various times across the day and am frequently checking mail. They therefore send me messages with this assumption. I haven’t formally declared what I’m trying to do, and why, but perhaps it’s only fair that I do.
          November 2015 Update

          I’ve given it another couple of weeks and despite a few days when my email discipline fell apart, the new approach seems to be making a real positive difference. I did share with colleagues what I was doing and it was received well, with several giving encouragement and support. Consequently, I find I can usually deal with daily email in three sessions, freeing up time for other work. I think it has also made me procrastinate less – I don’t put things off (well, less than I did) but deal with them there and then, or decide it’s not a priority.

          So, I’d  recommend giving this a try if you’re finding that email is occupying too much of your life. As ever comments are always welcome. I’d also be interested to hear how you deal with email.

          Workable Wellbeing

          Inspired by the @SLTchat discussion about wellbeing on 6/9/15, I have collated some of the easily implementable ideas we use to promote wellbeing at St Gregory the Great Catholic School in Oxford.

          Some updates added on 10th October 2015 to mark World Mental Health Day.

          1. Free tea & coffee in our staff room. This is essential really, I feel it makes breaks a proper break and its the fuel that keeps staff going in between! I’ve worked in schools where staff pay into a kitty for tea & coffee – it’s a lot of effort for a very small sum in terms of a school budget and usually a nightmare for the colleague who has to get everyone to cough up. Chocolate biscuits also help at high pressure times and several colleagues share cake on their birthdays.

          2. Considering the impact of new policies on staff wellbeing. Change seems to be the one contestant in schools. As we plan and implement new policies and procedures it’s important to consider their impact on workload and wellbeing. I have described this in more detail here.

          3. Thank yous. It only takes a moment to say thank you, but in a busy day doing so can easily slip, whether acknowledging an email response, on paper or in person. It’s well worth getting into the habit of thanking people in even the routine tasks like a request for photocopying to reprographics. Use key points in the year such as the end of terms to voice appreciation or drop people a note. Performance management reviews are also an opportunity to thank colleagues for their contribution over the past year. At our Performance Development (we don’t call it appraisal) day this year we picked up on idea from Cheney school, Oxford, and started a staff Thank You board where anyone can post thank yous to colleagues.

          4. Active steps to make workload manageable. We try to plan for busy times of the year, for example reducing the requirement to attend meetings in the weeks before exam board submission dates. I’ve written more about this here.

          5. Staff book swap. We maintain simple book swap in the staff room. Colleagues contribute books they have read and enjoyed and anyone can take them to read themselves. There is only one condition: if you enjoy the book you have to pass it on to someone else you think will like it. We started with about 30 books donated by colleagues a couple of years ago. Since then the book swap has grown and become completely self-sustaining.

          6. Mindfulness. We are just starting out with mindfulness as a school after training at the start of the year. We are aiming to use it with pupils, especially to reduce anxiety, but many friends and colleagues have found it extremely useful, so we are also keen to explore the benefits for staff wellbeing.

          7. Spirituality. I work at a Catholic school so prayer and worship form part of school life. Our chapel is an oasis of peace and staff are welcome to take part in a short Taize service each week. It’s open most of the time to drop in. Most schools, whatever their character, have staff faith groups. While maybe not what everyone wants, they can be a boon to the wellbeing of their members.

          8. Humour. A smile, a laugh, a cartoon or a joke, even if it is a bit lame, can lighten the day sometimes even the workload. It’s important to get the balance right, and to make sure the humour isn’t personal, but used well humour can make a large contribution to wellbeing. We try to have something that will make people smile at staff briefing, in our newsletter, and in the end-of-week email. My colleagues seem to have quite taken to the idea of dressing up 1980s style to mark ‘Back to the Future Day’ on 21st October. People are sending me pictures of their hair crimpers.

          9. Cake. Yes cake. It seems to feature quite a bit. It precedes CPD, accompanies meetings and is occasional treat at break time. I noticed a thread in the #SLTchat discussion about the benefits of fruit. I can see the health and nutrition arguments, but I think if we tried to replace cake we might have a mass walkout. As a compromise we sometimes put fruit in the cake. Cocoa beans are a fruit, right?

          10. Staying Fresh. Ideas that I was struck by in the @SLTchat included sending cards to team members that arrive home over the summer (from @MrBenWard), ‘Have a break, have a kit kat’ for staff returning after illness (from @TeacherToolkit) and specific coaching for managing time & wellbeing (from @ottleyoconnor). For myself, I’m going to try to make time for lunch as @gazneedle suggested) – something I’m not too good at most weeks.

          It would be great to here other suggestions that have worked for you. Thanks to @ASTsupportAAli from Cheney School for the Thank you board idea. @evenbetterif has suggested a wellbeing objective in everyone’s performance development – an idea we will consider for next year.

          Workload Planning for Peak Times

          This is the second in a planned series of posts on tackling workload issues in schools, so teachers can focus on the most effective activities. Originally posted in February 2015, this post was updated in April 2015, and again in April 2016.


          Planning for the Pressure Points 

          One important way in which school leaders can reduce the workload of teaching staff is to recognise the times of the year when there are particularly high demands. One of these for UK secondary schools is the period in late Spring when we embark on the ‘final push’ and at the same time face the marking & moderation of coursework components. We have adopted a couple of strategies to help staff during this time.

          1. Meetings Moratorium For several years we have held a moratorium on meetings for the two weeks after The Easter holiday, suspending the school meeting cycle (subject / pastoral / CPD) to assist colleagues in dealing with this seasonal workload. We also devolve a twilight INSET slot to subject teams in this period so they can share practice, honing and standardising their assessment skills.
          2. SLT take on the Homework In 2014, we took the additional step of relieving colleagues of the requirement to set and mark KS3 homework. Instead the SLT set and marked a ‘TakeAway Homework’ menu (Thank you to @TeacherToolkit for that idea*) We used this as a student voice opportunity, so menu items included completing an online survey, writing to the head about an improvement to the school, and writing to me about what qualities a great teacher should have (I need all the help I can get!) We used the responses to inform the School improvement plan.

          None of this makes the work go away, of course, but it does allow colleagues to concentrate on key tasks, by relieving some of the pressure on them at this time of year. Teachers have cited it as a helpful strategy in the annual staff wellbeing survey.  

          April 2015 Update

          This year we are repeating the moratorium on meetings, but have modified the take away homework for KS3 students. We have been revisiting our school values this year, so we have included a ‘starter’ on random acts of kindness and a ‘main course’ item which is a competition to design a poster around our school values of wisdom, integrity, justice and compassion. We are also having a push on extended writing, so another ‘main course’ is a writing competition. The inclusion of competition entries also reduces the marking load because the entries are initially screened for shortlisting rather than close-marked. We have of course retained the item most popular with parents last year – the ‘dessert’ on helping out at home!

          April 2016 Update

          This strategy was welcomed by colleagues last year, so we are repeated it again this year.

          We used the same pattern of a meetings moratorium and devolved some INSET time to subject departments so they could use it when most appropriate to their planning. 

          We also repeated the centralised takeaway homework for KS3 students. You can find it here. We stuck with extended writing opportunities. This was a great success last year and several pupils produced prize-winning entries in National writing competitions. Building on this, we have deliberately written poetry, short story writing and art tasks to meet entry requirements for competitions. We will also be comparing writing this year with that from last year as a way of assessing progress on this priority in our SIP.

          We shifted the focus of our ‘values’ tasks to practical action to improve the school environment as our (Catholic school) community explores the message of Pope Francis’ letter Laudato Si’: Care for our Common Home. We’ll also be using this as a student voice opportunity, comparing answers with last year and also asking about our teaching and learning development areas for this year (feedback and DIRT, and Collaborative Learning).

          Impact

          Once again, adopting this strategy has helped alleviate the workload burden of colleagues at a ‘heavy’ time of year, and in a year when there is so much additional change in all areas. Even though Easter was much earlier this year, the two week period after the holiday still seems to have been the most beneficial time to do this.

          I hope you found this post useful. I’m keen to hear any comments you have and I’d particularly like to hear other ideas on managing and reducing workload. 

          *You can find more about takeaway homework on the Teacher Toolkit website
          2015/02/img_0980.jpg