Is Damian Hinds right about school emails?

Teachers should not have to email outside of office hours and should instead embrace innovative technology such as AI to help to reduce their workload, the Education Secretary said in a speech today.

Schools are encouraged (not least by Ofsted) to demonstrate that they are communicating with parents, but has it gone too far, and do parents even read all the emails that schools send out? I do, but I may be unusual. However, as teachers leave the profession in droves, in part due to workload (mainly too much admin) are we expecting too much communication from our schools? Is this the instant communication issue we all struggle with where if messages are not replied to immediately, people think you need a reminder!

I’m not sure it is just emails home. I once worked in an educational institution where we regularly emailed colleagues at the next desk – this was simple back covering and creating an audit trail for resolving issues which arose.

The Education Secretary said that while education technology has the power to transform education, its growth in the classroom has created both opportunities and challenges.

He cited the example of email and the impact it has had on working lives.

Mr Hinds said:

More than half of teachers’ time is spent on non-teaching tasks, including planning, marking and admin, and that workload is one of the most common reasons for teachers leaving the profession.

Education is one of the few sectors where technology has been associated with an increase in workload rather than the reverse. And let’s think why.

Back when I was at school there was an annual parents evening and a report at the end of the year. Maybe a letter home if there was a school trip. That report still happens and so does the parents evening, but email has revolutionised parent, teacher communication. Email hasn’t replaced much; mostly it has just added.

I’m sure none of us now could imagine a life without email, but do we ever stop to think how much of our day is actually spent reading or replying to them?

In many or perhaps all occupations, email takes up a lot time. MPs have seen a step change in correspondence and contact through email. For many teachers the situation is even more intense, with a huge volume of emails from parents and their senior leadership team that they need to respond to outside of lesson time.

Many schools are already reviewing their school practices to reduce workload – and to those who haven’t already, I encourage them to look at what they can do to shift away from an email culture in, and into, school to free teachers up to spend more time in the classroom.

Let’s have your thoughts – parents, teachers and school leaders.


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