COLUMN: Refining our words and cutting out unnecessary pages would save time and money says Rosemary Westwell of Ely

COLUMN: Rosemary Westwell asks ‘are we really in the Christmas spirit this year?’

COLUMN: Rosemary Westwell asks ‘are we really in the Christmas spirit this year?’ - Credit: Archant

At last the education secretary, Damian Hinds, is going to cut down teachers’ workloads.

He will be asking schools to reduce unnecessary, time-consuming testing, marking and (hopefully) form-filling.

Many teachers have left the job out of sheer frustration because they are told to record almost everything a child does.

They have to prepare pages of lesson plans. They get so little time in comparison to actually get on with the job of teaching the children, it is no wonder there is a shortage of teachers now.

And why are teachers being asked to spend so much extra time recording? Simply to please the managers and inspectors: people who rarely actually go into classrooms and teach the children face to face.

With the best will in the world, every single detail of what happens in a classroom cannot be fully recorded, no matter how many forms are filled in.

More to the point, what matters most, the children or a piece of paper?

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Teaching is not the only area in our world that is being swamped with pages of unnecessary words.

If I didn’t know better, I would suspect that the longer the document, the more likely it is that the writers(s) have something to hide.

How often do you find you are tricked by firms that refuse you compensation because you haven’t read the small print – pages of tiny writing that uses too many words many of which are unfamiliar to most of us?

How often have you received information from an organisation that could easily be reduced by many pages?

One suspects that the people writing them are trying to justify their jobs.

Politicians are famous for being able to ramble on for ages using so many unnecessary words that we often think they are doing this in order to duck the question.

The desire for brevity is not just Damian Hind’s. Apparently both Maggie Thatcher and Winston Churchill complained that documents were too wordy and they asked their people be brief.

Brevity does not necessarily mean a reduction in the quality of the content. Careful choice of words can make the difference: for example ‘because’ instead of ‘due to the fact that’, ‘until’ instead of ‘under such time as’ or ‘except’ instead of ‘with the exception of’.

Looking though council minutes at random I found ‘Members are requested to note that this committee is projected to end the year with a saving on its approved revenue budget of …’

Why not simply say ‘the committee expects to make savings on the budget’ instead?

Refining our words and cutting out unnecessary pages would be one way of saving money that seems to be in such short supply these days.