Speaking at the NUT conference in April, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the “workload issue” has become a “central pre-occupying concern within the teaching profession”.
“A culture of long hours and bureaucracy has left many teachers feeling swamped. The endless national initiatives, an overloaded and prescriptive curriculum and the range of high stakes national curriculum tests alongside the pressures of school performance tables have led to many feeling under constant pressure.
“No one enters the teaching profession expecting to work a 9 – 5 day, but a two day weekend is surely not asking too much. It is a fact that since the implementation of the workload agreement things have actually got worse with many teachers working upward of 50 hours a week.
Andy Mackenzie is a teacher with subject responsibilities in a sixth form college. He says he likes teaching, but he’s decided to take a cut in pay and go part-time so he can spend more time with his children.
“My job is very stressful, because I’m responsible for about 100 students on largely coursework-based courses,” he explains. “They need a lot of help and support to really develop to reach their potential. And the amount of time I can give each of them is very very short. That’s a major cause of stress for me.“
“I work an enormous amount of hours…”
“I would say my job is based on the absolute minimum amount of time that it could feasibly be done in. So, once my own children are upstairs and asleep, I work every evening. I work weekends. I work an enormous amount of hours.”
But he says he has consciously tried to reduce the 14 hours a day he was working before Christmas. The effect has been to reduce the quality of his work – and in particular the time he spends marking and the standard of feedback he’s able to give students.
“It sounds very harsh, but I think I’ve tried to emotionally detach myself from students and their performance a little bit more, and to say that if I’ve offered students the full classroom entitlement that they’ve got, and some extra support entitlement, if they’re still not reaching their potential then I’ll say that that’s a little bit up to them.
“The bottom line is, I like teaching…”
“I do genuinely care and want all my students to do well – and whenever I have free periods or after college I do give up my own free time to help students, so I do do all of that, but I’ve probably built up some slight emotional barriers. Whereas a few years ago I was quite a nice guy who always had time for people, now I don’t have time for people, especially other members of staff. So I feel I brush them off a bit when they could do with some extra help or support.
“The bottom line is, I like teaching. I’ve consciously decided to give up much of my management role to just be a teacher. I’m going a bit more part-time, because I am reasonably well paid, so I can afford to do that, and I’ve got my own children I need to give time to, so that’s a way of me reducing my stress. It’s not an option a lot of teachers have chosen, because of course if you give up some of your working hours you give up some of your pay. And most people don’t want to do that or can’t afford to do that.”
• Do you feel ‘swamped’? What should be done to reduce teachers’ workload? How do you manage stress? Why not share with Eteach readers…