I am in full support of the current round of teacher strikes. As a primary school teacher and educational leader of over 20 years expererince, it is no surprise to me at all that The Guardian recently ran an article stating that a third of England’s teachers who qualified in the last decade have left the profession.

“But you only work 9 to 3, and what about all the holidays?”. This notion is old, grossly inaccurate and any mention of this around a group of teachers, well …, I would fear for your safety! I can say with experience that teachers are in fact paid for working 9 to 3 but I have never met a teacher who does not go home after 6, only to work more in the evening and then on the weekends. Teachers work incredibly long hours and are overwhelmed and stressed with paperworkand tasks that take them away from the core; the assess, plan and teach cycle. 

It is my experience that many of these burdensome tasks could be measurably reduced, or indeed eradicated, with some Lean thinking. In fact, I believe that Lean is long overdue in the primary education sector as far too many teachers will describe their frustrations of being told what size and type of font need to go in each box on a planning form that was designed in a room by people not carrying out the planning! And don’t even mention the controversial issue of how many times something needs to be backed before it goes up on the wall (yes, some schools have strict guidelines around this!). 

Hierarchical decisions are too frequently made with inadequate scoping of a problem and essential voice inclusivity. That is to say, the experts in the process are left in the classroom because it’s too costly to have supply teachers to provide cover. Therefore, a defunct process continues at the cost of teachers’ Sunday nights trying to fill in boxes on a form on a glitchy computer! 

Schools can all too often have a ‘traditional’ approach to systems and processes as “that’s the way it has always been done”. Additionally, excuses of cost and time, or let’s just trial this, and, it’s been decided by management, are plastered over situations to continue to limp along. Well, the limp has turned into a break and teachers are striking. 

I have seen first-hand how this mindset contributes to huge amounts of waste and leads to frustration and job dissatisfaction for our teachers. Who wants a tired, under-resourced, frustrated teacher teaching their child?  

The St Andrews Lean Consulting definition of Lean is “The right people continuously searching for the simplest and smoothest process in order to meet customer needs perfectly”.  Perhaps the adoption of this principle and professional facilitation of Lean in primary schools would motivate more teachers to stay?

If you are thinking that perhaps my experience is an exception and not the rule, sadly no. 

Facebook groups designed to support teachers to leave teaching are increasingly popular. One such group: Life After Teaching – Exit the Classroom and Thrive, has over 100,000 members. Given the recent strike action; teachers are clearly not thriving.  Reading through the comments and situations that teachers write about on this page clearly indicates that there is a desperate need for change and at a fundamental level. 

I believe that progressive thinking and sustainable processes are crucial in retaining and recruiting teachers and Lean thinking and a Lean way of working is exactly that.

If you are a leader in school get in touch with me to discuss how a Lean approach in your school could revolutionise your work processes!


(Image by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels)