You do need to be organised in Primary teaching (Part 2)

Let’s pick up from where we left off in part 1.

So just what are our intentions in improving our organisation?

  1. To attempt to get an overview of all the demands that are being put upon us
  2. To identify which are absolute necessities and which can be “back-heeled” and ignored!
  3. To streamline all aspects of our teaching career
  4. To create some sort of balance between our home life and school which enables us to minimise the effect of our job on our home and family.

Let’s make a start.

It is important to realise that whichever way you view things, your teaching job is going to have some impact on your home and family life. However in saying this; it should be minimal and this is something you are going to have to work towards.

If you are an NQT then I can tell you honestly that certainly in your 1st year and yes into your 2nd year you are going to find things tough. The very nature of teaching as a job and all that it involves is not an easy arena to enter and in finding your feet you must understand that the learning curve is very steep. Of course this can be helped and alleviated by a supportive school; but in knowing this, it can perhaps be the expected rather than the surprising and unsettling.

We looked very briefly in Part 1 at the interrelationship between school and home and considered whether there might be some flexibility in our home lives that might just avoid clashes of times or events that are happening at school. This of course should be kept to a minimum with only obvious changes made if possible. What you do need to avoid is school being dominant and home life and family playing a second class role!

1 quick question?

Before we switch our attention to a school focus I do just want to speak about 1 aspect that I see far too often and which in my opinion is not necessary. That is the time spent at school. I have spoken with and heard from many colleagues who arrive very early to school and leave very late and I have to ask the simple question “why?”

Why is it that you have to arrive at school at 7.00 a.m…or even earlier? Honestly what is there to do? If you have planned the evening before for your day, then all you have to do is prepare stuff for the morning and how long does that take?

I mention this here because this is a big hit on home and family life….leaving home so early has an obvious knock on effect for families and partners and in my opinion is not necessary. So here is our first bit of flexibility – reclaimed time at home!….score 1

So let’s flip this around and ask why are you being late away from school…yes there may be a staff meeting day….yes you may run an after school club (generally finishes at 4.00 p.m ish) but why are you still there at 6.30 or 7.00 p.m? In addition to these, the only extra you may need to do is marking and if you have been following the tips in my articles and videos on marking then that should be at a minimum…..go home! – score 2

Seriously; if this applies to you then you must look closely at this. Try to structure things which will allow you to both arrive and leave school at reasonable times. In my opinion 8.00 a.m and 5.00 p.m are really the best times to aim for. However if this is too much of an immediate change then try to reduce your current times by 15 or 30 minutes and work towards that and then when you have achieved those times try to reduce again.

School – let’s get things in perspective!

I have no problem in working hard at school and I am sure you have the same attitude. I often point out to friends that from the minute I arrive in school to the minute I leave I never stop talking…literally, if you think about it neither will you!

There is so much to do that it can be mind boggling if you are not organised and at the beginning of a school year it is at its most oppressive until we establish both our personal and class routines.

So if it’s not the actual physical aspects of the taught day what is it that we need to be looking at to start to pull things more into shape?

Here’s a short list but as I usually say …I am sure you can add more!

  1. Marking
  2. Lesson planning
  3. Assessment marking and pupil tracking records
  4. Possible subject responsibilities
  5. Leadership team and management

The above list shows potentially what may be facing you either in part or in some cases in total; dependent on your role within the school and this may be compounded by a lack of any additional release time that you may be given!

Even more frightening is the realisation that ALL are potentially demands that we may have to take home to find the time to actually deal with….and we all know how that is going to work out with our family life.


When Bradley Wiggins was planning to attempt the world 1hr indoor track cycling record he used a technique that is used by many sports competitors and indeed by those in business also. He said that to ride at such a pace and with such pain and effort was too big a task – the very thought of it for 60 minutes was overwhelming. What he did was to break down the hour into 5 sections of 12 minutes each. In effect he never had to face the complete hour…all he had to do was to make it through the 12 minutes….10 left, 6 left etc. Once that was over all he had to do was to make it through the next 12 minutes.

Bradley Wiggins in his UCI Hour Record attempt in 2015

When tasks facing us appear overwhelming then if we can break them down into smaller chunks and aim to achieve success on these smaller pieces then we can eventually reach our goals.

Applying this to our situation

This tells us not to try to achieve complete solutions to things in one go….it’s just too much to do and we will inevitably become discouraged and think it is impossible. But if we have firstly considered and possibly created some flexibility in our home situation then we next need to look to school to actually create…no let’s put it more boldly to impose some flexibility here also.

Here are a few examples, but based on these I am sure you can think of your own.

  • Marking and planning – I have often quoted Nottinghamshire where there is an agreement for all Primary schools that no teachers should do more than 2 hours extra after school. Why not try to follow this example…If possible get your marking done after school and leave by 5.00 p.m -at home all you need to do is plan for the next day. If this is not possible for some reason then leave school as early as you can so that you can have as much time as possible at home and also get your marking and planning done. Take a tip from my book and arrange your Friday timetable so that you have no subjects that create marking and all you need to do on a Sunday is look ahead for the week and plan for the Monday….no need to plan the week unless school stipulates this (and they should NOT!)
  • Assessment and tracking – these usually occur at set intervals during the term and happen in all classes. Try to get all the assessments done, marked and tracking done in that assessment week (if that’s what happens) – don’t let it drag into the next teaching programme. Yes its a bit hectic but if you plan the rest of the activities that week so that they don’t generate marking and require next to no planning then it helps!
  • Subject leader responsibilities – if this is unpaid and a foundation subject then only do this in school time. If it takes 4, 6, 8 weeks to get it organised then that’s what it takes. NEVER take it home! Ask for release time if you need it but if you don’t get it then just amble away at it and don’t worry…really – if its important for the school they will give you release time!
  • Senior leadership team and management¬† – Dependent on your level then this is additional workload and expectation. Of course you will get paid for this but you should also be given appropriate release time in which you can achieve the goals you have been set. However you must expect some additional workload and you may not be able to accommodate everything in school time. But do keep things in perspective and reign it back if it starts to cause problems.

In conclusion – Things can at times seem overwhelming with regard to the demands and workload generated in schools. However we do need to step back and work out how to deal with things. It is not enough to moan and complain as this does not solve the problems. However huge things might seem we do need to positively look at ways in which we can deal with the workload and also reclaim time for ourselves and our families. It may not be possible to produce instant solutions, but set small goals that are achievable¬† and keep chipping away at your targets and you will find that gradually not only do you feel more in control of things but also things start to improve. The bottom line is to do nothing ….and of course then nothing changes – and that’s no good for anyone!








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *