“When the storms come again
Pray for resolution”
Prince – Resolution – Planet Earth
In case you are reading this blog, hoping for a golden solution to the teacher retention problem, I’ll warn you advance, this isn’t the blog for you! I merely offer one solution, actually a sort of sticky-plaster, to a difficult problem faced in schools: setting cover work. A situation every department needs to handle with resolution.
If you type teacher crisis into any search engine you’ll be bombarded with newspaper articles, reports on the current issues facing the British education system, or countless blogs from various teachers leaving the profession in droves. In fact Vic Goddard (@vicgoddard) Principal of Passmores Academy recently tweeted a photo of applicants received at his school: core subjects vs PE.
Reading posts or tweets like that, as KS3 Lead I was relieved I wasn’t replacing a vacancy with few applicants, however, my own problem was a slightly harder issue: planning and supplying daily meaningful work to cover a long term absent member of staff.
So what do you do if you’re covering long term absence?
Long term absence is described as 28 days or more (I’ve read). Now, covering a member of staff off for a day or two can be a pain, but covering work for a long term absence can have a serious impact on the rest of the department. You are juggling your own timetable and commitments, including planning, marking, duties and any other number of current initiatives thrown your way with another full-time timetable of classes.
In January I was faced with exactly that! I was setting work for long term absence.
Every day I’d stand at the copier whizzing off countless worksheets etc and after a couple of weeks I was almost tearing my hair out. You could always guarantee somebody else was there before me (how annoying) or worse there was a queue (even more annoying). And let us not mention the meetings I missed! So I turned to ‘twitter’ and Ann (@agwilliams9) let me run a Monday evening English chat session; my topic “How are you dealing with long term absence?”
8pm arrived and I tweeted out my question then sat nervously wondering if I’d get any replies. Soon enough the tweets came in so quickly I struggled to keep up. Many English teachers were facing similar problems. It became clear short term absence was more common and therefore discussed more. My problem wasn’t as simple to resolve and nobody seemed to have a solution that suited me and the school I work in.
Out of the darkness I was feeling came a shining bright light in the form of Freya (@fod3). She suggested a possible solution could be to turn my SOW into booklets. Students could follow the same unit as others in their year group, but more importantly all worksheets and responses are kept ‘tidy’ in their workbooks. You see if you work in a school you quickly work out that many students cannot master the art of gluing in a piece of paper ‘straight’! Class books become messy quickly. I made up the booklets (or workbooks) with both the necessary resources and adequate space for the student to write, including short answers, extended writing and several creative tasks covering a range of forms and purposes.
Gone was my moody face at the photocopier, my rushing across the site, like a witch on her way to meet Macbeth, putting cover work on the desk with large notes. Suddenly my mornings were mine again. The booklets were a success!
All I can say is if you are faced with a similar problem and can turn your SOW into a workbook, do so. They have quite literally saved my hair being torn out and saved other staff having to put up with me huffing and puffing every day!
Here’s a selection of booklets – I have them made up to last a couple of weeks.
Below are a few examples for you to download if you want. Oh and before anyone complains about the quality of work, I need to point out the actual booklets are over 100 pages each covering a unit from start to finish including several SPaG exercises. The skills build as the unit moves towards an end of unit assessment covering the literature or language AOs. I’ve only attached 7-9 pages (not necessarily in the same order the actual booklets).
Oh and finally another bonus is if a student is off school for one reason or another, I arrange to have one sent home and they can work through these easily!
Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment – I’m always learning!