Slava Kremerman, CEO and co-founder of Zen Educate

Improving school infrastructure to boost contact time

Many teachers are unable to spend as much time actually teaching as they’d like to. The proliferation of private tuition has again brought this issue to the forefront, with recent research from the Sutton Trust revealing that nearly a quarter of British secondary school pupils receive private tuition outside of the school curriculum.

The study by the educational charity highlights the benefit of generating efficiencies that allow teachers to focus their time where it matters most, teaching. To put it simply, we need to focus more on freeing up time to teach by addressing teacher workloads and getting rid of wasteful and costly processes such as data entry.

Resourcing schools with the right tools

Teachers spend hours on marking, lesson planning, and other general housekeeping admin tasks, on average taking up 20.1 hours of their working week, almost the same amount of time spent on teaching itself. It’s clear there’s an imbalance here - the teacher is meant to be at the centre of progress within a classroom, yet half of their time is taken up away from the students.

Nowadays, many classrooms are fully equipped with a variety of technology solutions which aim to enhance the learning experience. Whilst these solutions can be engaging, they are not addressing the fundamental issue that teachers and parents alike are focused on: increasing contact time between teachers and their students. The staff are the most important assets a school has and the most important consideration when trying to improve attainment in the classroom.

Meanwhile, parents do everything in their power to give their children the best start in life, even when funds are tight. By giving schools the resources they need, we can alleviate discrepancies in the education received by pupils from different backgrounds, democratising education for all.

Integrating new technologies

Improving the quantity and quality of teacher-pupil interactions is of paramount importance. The core of the issue lies then with the importance of contact time, stemming back to how the back office of schools are run. By moving away from archaic operating systems that have been embedded in schools for decades, we can free up teachers’ time and increase schools’ available resources in equal measure.

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This is of paramount importance, as according to a recent National Education Survey, 80% of British teachers have considered quitting primarily due to their workload. These are people who love their jobs but are bogged down with tiresome admin tasks that stop them engaging with their pupils.

Currently for most schools in the UK, data is kept on local servers, meaning data can only be accessed on-site. Everything from the communication tools, to finance, to HR can be made more flexible through the use of cloud solutions.

Take the cloud-based data management platform Arbor for example, which is paving the way for the future of Learning Management Systems for schools, eliminating unnecessary admin. Schools can record and analyse their essential data quickly in an intuitive, user friendly hub.

Overcoming teaching inefficiencies

Another example of inefficiencies within the education system is the staggering amount of money British schools spend on agency fees. In 2017, a government report found that schools in the UK had spent roughly £1.3 billion on supply teachers or around £50,000 per school, a 4% rise on the previous year. Thousands of pounds are wasted on high fees by going through traditional pen-and-paper recruitment agencies and job boards, money that could go into other resources.

By using a digital platform to connect schools and teachers directly we can cut out the middleman - recruitment agencies - and pass the savings directly onto both of them.

It is also incredibly important to find the right teacher for the right role, and that includes supply teachers. On average, a student will cumulatively spend a year of their education in front of supply teachers with teacher absences equalling about 5-7% of the academic year.

Schools using digital education staffing platforms are able to utilise their intelligent matching algorithms to make sure that their vacancies are filled by teachers with the appropriate skills and background, quickly and efficiently.

To put it simply, there is still a huge opportunity to cut unnecessary administration from schools across the country by cutting down on tasks that don’t directly affect pupils.

A wake-up call

The Sutton Trust survey highlights the rise in those receiving tuition outside of the school curriculum.

By streamlining the workflow of back office operations, efficiencies can be driven in schools, to allow teachers to spend more time with those who would benefit from the extra help during school hours.

Slava Kremerman, CEO and co-founder of Zen Educate

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