On top of all their other workload pressures, teachers spend on average nearly 9 hours a week preparing and planning lessons. They also spend in aggregate about £40m/year out of their own pockets on resources. Department for Education asked us to research and prototype a digital service that could save teachers time and money as well as improving lesson quality for pupils.
Because schools lack access to high-quality, low-cost teaching materials, teachers feel like they have to create their own from scratch. As well as the extra work this creates, it also forces them into a last-minute approach to lesson planning that has a negative effect on the quality of the curriculum that is delivered to pupils.
What we did
First we carried out a Discovery where we spoke directly to teachers from all corners of the country to understand their experiences of curriculum and lesson planning and resourcing. We observed lesson planning in context – both in schools and in teachers’ homes – as well as surveying 500 teaching professionals.
In parallel we conducted market research to understand what already exists, how teachers are interacting with it, and how other governments are tackling these challenges, including running co-design workshops with teachers, market providers and policy experts.
Through the Discovery work it became clear the there are three interrelated problems: teacher workload and retention, curriculum quality and cost.
Workload is cited as a major factor in teachers leaving, and time spent planning lessons and finding resources are among the biggest drivers of teacher turnover. Teachers say they spend too much time curriculum planning and resourcing and it’s often last-minute which is tiring and stressful.
All this last-minute planning has a significant effect on the quality of the curriculum that is delivered as teachers focus on individual lessons rather than on long-term, strategic plans. They rely on easy-to-find, free, accessible resources which are not always of the highest quality and they often lack subject knowledge as they have not had time to “swot up” before a lesson
As well as the enormous cost to the system of having to replace burnt-out teachers who are leaving the system there are also the hidden costs of printing and photocopying with teachers often paying for resources themselves. It’s estimated that teachers spend over £40m/year out of their own pockets.
WRITE UP ALPHA…
We prototyped and iterated elements of the service that were fundamental to delivering the outcomes sought (reduced teacher workload, higher quality curriculum).
We tested riskiest elements of the service back-office and commercial model, to ensure our understanding of feasibility was growing along with the refinement of the user experience
We designed *content* strategy and quality assurance process for taking 30 curriculum programmes from different curriculum providers and bringing them into a common format which could support *complex user journeys* for search, navigation, page structure, tagging and categorisation.
The CM alpha was the first team in government to pass the new GDS service standard. GDS said we’d done “an outstanding job”.
• We meticulously assessed ourselves against the new service standard, RAG- rating each point so we knew where to iterate/improve
• We held a mock assessment with a panel of expert critical friends to help improve how we presented our work
• We coached our civil servant product owner (first-time PO with no experience of assessments), upskilling her so she had the capability to effectively lead the assessment presentation