Nowadays, the vast array of tasks which a primary school teacher must administer on a daily basis is extraordinary. They must keep record and account of the development of each individual student, as it is now a requirement to provide ‘tailor-made’ education. This includes using tests to analyze the progress of students, organize parental assistance for extracurricular activities and above all manage the administration in detail. This is all extra work which was not the case when teachers first entered this worthwhile profession. If we start asking too much they will really develop a fear for accountability.
Rutte III was right to structurally deduct 450 million euros to lower the workload in primary education. The appointment of concierges and class reduction are useful extra investments. Nevertheless, primary schools themselves can also take matters into their own hands. So far, more than 2,000 primary schools in the Netherlands are already developing their own initiatives. In my opinion, the figures are encouraging: almost 30% of the approximately 6,900 Dutch primary schools already use software to reduce the work pressure on teachers. For example, students can independently carry out digital homework assignments and exercises, via ipads, laptops or standard desktops. Software measurements show they work on the exercises for a maximum of one hour a day during school hours to achieve optimum results at their own level. This shows they do not become Ipad-children.
All in all, 30% is a good figure and there is also an upward trend of a few percent increase per year within primary schools. At the same time, we still have a long way to go: at many schools, teachers are still buried under mountains of paperwork. Teachers' cabinets are still full of folders ranging from different teaching methods to transfer notes between duo teachers. This even occurs when they have digital support, which shows it is still very much a challenge. Teachers must not only use the software, but also fully trust it. This is especially important as the next step is already coming: the automatic digital review of exercises via Gynzy Kids is growing exponentially this school year. The approach is already in use for 15,000 students in groups 4 and 5 and groups 6 to 8 are soon to be added. A considerable amount of time will be saved when exercises in arithmetic, spelling and vocabulary can be automatically checked and administered online.
Communication with parents
Contact with parents can also be improved. For example, gone will be the days of a note from school going through the washing machine by accident. Or e-newsletters that remain unread and divorced parents who do not receive the same information. The latest teacher and parent apps not only increase parental involvement, but also reduce work pressure. Quickly putting a few fun or informative messages on an app during lesson time saves the teachers one hour a day. Teachers are also able to keep control over the provision of information to parents, as everyone is automatically informed at the same time via their telephone. About 1,000 primary schools already use the Parro parent app for this.
In conclusion, a significant number of primary schools are already open to innovation and are progressively working towards a higher efficiency by using digital products as a tool to realize this. Only by radically embracing this way of thinking can schools really reduce the workload and ensure teachers remain in this valuable and important profession.