Primary school teachers work almost 60 hours a week

It’s official – the teaching profession is plagued by long hours and bureaucracy, according to the latest Teachers’ Workload Diary survey from the DfE.

The DfE survey was based on responses from just over 1000 teachers on their hours and working patterns in maintained primary, secondary, academy and special schools in England.

It found that primary teachers are working almost 60 hours a week, compared to just over 50 in 2010. Meanwhile their colleagues in secondary worked nearly 56 hours, while secondary heads recorded over 63 hours. The teachers complained of spending time on ‘unnecessary bureaucratic tasks’, including preparations for Ofsted inspections, form filling and other paperwork, the Guardian reports.

ATL’s Martin Freedman said that teachers are fitting in the equivalent of an extra day a week by working in evenings and weekends: “These figures expose Michael Gove’s claim that this country’s educational achievements would be improved if only teachers worked longer as utter rubbish,” he said.    “Exhausted teachers and tired pupils will not help children to achieve the best education outcomes and, at least as far as this survey is concerned, might actually make things worse.”

The NUT described teachers as feeling ‘totally overwhelmed’ and claimed that morale is at an all-time low: “This survey shows an astonishing increase in the hours that teachers are working on Michael Gove’s watch,” said general secretary Christine Blower. “No one enters the profession expecting a nine-to-five job, but working in excess of 55 hours a week and during holidays is entirely unacceptable.”

The DfE said the survey showed that the vast majority of teachers and headteachers are hardworking and dedicated. “We will explore the survey’s findings and ways to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy with the teaching unions as part of our ongoing programme of talks,” a spokesman said.

Do the survey’s findings sound familiar to you and if so how could your hours be decreased? Share your views with the Eteach community!


27 thoughts on “Primary school teachers work almost 60 hours a week

  1. For the past 6 months I have worked an 18 hour day during the week with an addition 10 hours at the weekend. I have taught for over 25 years and didn’t work this hard when I was training and had two babies to whom I was trying to parent.

  2. It’s absolutely critical that Education secretary Micheal Gove seriously listens to the views of teachers with a degree of empathy and objective consideration. Through such a narrowly defined and aimed aganda of reforming state maintained schools, in line to meet with reduced funding, his views and overall intention seems to suggest that teachers are being categorised in the same “slackers” league as many other public sector workers in this country. I’m not happy with the way in which this Government is trying to undermine the integuity of people who work in this profession in order to promote the interests of their party’s electorial position.

  3. Sitting here looking at yet another weekend lost to working just to keep my head above water I feel strongly about workload. My own family and children suffer because I have to spend my free time working. I love the job but in recent years I spend less and less time on what really matters. The current ways of working are unsustainable, the trouble with this situation is that those that are good enough to get other jobs do – we are currently losing good people because they can walk. There exists a culture of fear where ideas are not challenged – this results in people not speaking out – they rather keep their heads down and avoid the spotlight. This in turn leads to mediocrity. Low moral, lack of challenge and argument and fear means we are destined to see a rapid and sustained decline in the whole system. In Kent where I live the situation is already biting with it being increasingly difficult to recruit head teachers. Those with expertise and experience are leaving in droves or being ousted. It is an absolute mess and what worries me most is those that are currently being promoted into leadership are increasingly accepting of the whole situation because they know nothing else.

  4. I work in FE and would agree I put in a minimum of 20 hours over the week on top of my 35 contract in order to ensure my learners achieve. I teach BTEC 1~3 AS and Access to HE.

    We choose teaching as a vocation, it would be nice for Mr G to prep a terms work and go through OFSTED.

  5. Having worked as a primary teacher for the previous five academic years, I chose to take a step back last Summer term and do supply teaching from September. My reasons? The very long working day at school (average 10.5 hours), working at home at least two or three evenings a week (1-2 hours), and giving up my Saturday or Sunday for planning lessons and resources (5-6hours). Oh, and not forgetting, the days I’d work during my holidays, MY HOLIDAYS! Trying to catch-up on paperwork and marking. Put simply, I was worn out and on the verge of quitting completely. What made this even worse was the constant weekly criticism from the two Michaels, that teachers are not good enough and not working hard enough.

    So Mr Gove and Mr Wilshaw, when are you going to listen? When are you going to take on board what the professionals are saying? The professionals, who have first-hand experience of this job, who, like me, put their heart and sole into their work. The current system is not, and WILL NOT work for ALL involved. It is detrimental to our (the teachers) health and wellbeing, and consequently and unfortunately to the very people we are there to nurture and develop, the children of the future. What upsets me most is that I became a teacher in order to make learning fun for the children I would teach; something which my primary education severely lacked. During my permanent teaching post, I spent 50% of my time on paperwork (a large proportion of it, a waste of time), 40% on actual teaching and the final 10% on reading up on ways to make my lessons more interesting, more engaging, more fun for the children. In my opinion, and I’m sure many of my professional colleagues would agree, if I could spend 50% of my working hours on developing my teaching skills, I would be the OUTSTANDING teacher you really want. WE would be the OUTSTANDING teachers that every child deserves to have.

  6. Agreed…that would open his eyes and hopefully change his perspective to a more realistic one.

  7. I think that 60 hours a week is probably a very conservative figure, with many primary teachers working far longer than that. I am sure that it is no coincidence that there seems to have been a large rise in the number of agencies, coupled with an increase in the number of teachers leaving permanent posts to become supply teachers. The stresses teachers are put under today are intolerable, leading to ever increasing numbers of teachers taking extended leaves of absence through stress and illness. Until we have a radical overhaul of the profession that puts teachers first above the political ideals of whichever government is in charge at the time, morale will continue to fall and good teachers will continue to leave the classroom in search of a better work life balance.

  8. I work in Secondary education and the ridiculous amount of admin and constant assessments is seriously making me thinking of leaving and finding a new career. This is after over ten years in the job and consistent Outstanding lessons (including two from the evil Ofsted!) Too overworked to plan properly and not just lessons, but home life suffering as well. Teachers should strike until MG resigns!

  9. I am just so glad that this report has been made public, at a vital time for the profession. It’s about time we had some honesty. I am totally fed up with the way we are portrayed by this government who seek to convince the taxpayer that we are lazy shirkers.
    Also , though I don’t wish it on anyone, I no longer feel it’s just me, or my school , who is working these horrendous hours.
    How can exhausted, demoralised teachers who have no time to pursue any of their own interests, be expected to bring the energy and enthusiasm which is so crucial to the job of helping children reach their potential?

  10. Lets get real here when it comes to ridiculous assertions such as the above headline; what a load of rubbish. The teachers that have to work at weekends etc are the ones that are not organised and probably follow every instruction verbatim without using ‘common sense’. As a teacher I am organised and get into work an hour early to be prepared to hit the ground running ready for anything. This has worked for me and very occasionally would I have to work an hour or two on a weekend; organisation and planning is key and when teachers have a shorter working week than most people, and a half day off, there is no excuse for those pathetic moaners, get a grip or else work elsewhere…

  11. Many in the teaching profession work long hours, I only have a part-time contract of 22.5 hours per week, however, I work around 40+ hours just to keep my head above water and not to even make progress on developmental work unless I wish to spend absolutely all my time working. I dropped down from a full-time contract because it was killing me working 70+ hours each week. It caused me to be ill, which also elicited little sympathy from our HR Department; a fact which is now stopping me from a) getting back to a full-time contract and b) getting promotion. Life is tough, teaching is tougher!

  12. Most teachers at the Primary School I work in are in school by 7.30 and very rarely leave before the caretaker wants to lock up at 6pm. I go home and start again. This week I have worked from 7pm (allowing time only to have a cuppa and eat) until just after 1am Monday to Thursday night. Friday night I fell asleep at the computer trying to do more ‘paperwork’. Three meetings a week and marking books, preparing lessons etc Mr Gove wants to try this for a term and see how he feels – and go through an OFSTED inspection. It is a good job that the majority of teachers love their chosen profession – otherwise we would never keep teachers.

  13. Mizuno- you must be a pretty poor, unimaginative teacher who doesn’t care about differentiation, assessment or the needs of the individual in your classroom.

    Are you really a teacher or are you an aspiring politician? Where is this mysterious ‘half day’ and a shorter working day? Obviously you are suggesting teachers go home at the same time the children do. Perhaps you do. I’d love to know if you use this time for shopping or popping to the pub while real teachers are planning and preparing, marking and innovating ideas for moving their pupils forward. I’d also be interested to know how you manage to get away with such a frivolous attitude with your colleagues and Head.

    I suspect you are wasting everyone’s time pretending to be who you are not and can possibly be found on several other sites assuming the persona of a worker in other jobs. Go away.

  14. Just a quick reply to Mizuno.
    My wife teaches in the secondary sector, She is in school early and is prepared to hit the ground running and is ready for anything. Why? Because she spends 3-4 hours each night preparing work for the following day, marking books and dealing with paperwork. Whilst organisation and planning is the key it cannot be accomplished by doing all it in the one hour before the pupils arrive!!

  15. I write in response particularly to comments of Mizuno – who believes the fault is disorganised teachers and Jackie, whose working hours match mine in my 10 year primary stint.

    I worked for 30 years in other occupations before qualifying as a teacher – Gove and others in non-teaching occupations who believe teachers have an easy ride should take notice of someone with this predominantly non-teaching background and a c.v. that verifies high organisational skills.

    My experience as a primary teacher, was of similar unmanageably high workloads – in all schools except those where the headteacher was a confident and knowledgeable pedagogue and capable financial manager. Lesson planning may well be an essential pre-requisite of good teaching – but recording the minutiae of every lesson in written plans is not. It is years since Gove himself said that this type of record keeping is not necessary. Yes poor headship practice has cascaded to leadership teams and is now so embedded I thought it impossible to change. This detailed recording of plans is often justified within schools as so that teaching support staff know exactly what is required of them.

    When I began teaching, I was happy to, in ‘family’ time at home, prepare resources etc. – work which does not require the professional skills of a teacher. Eventually, other family members object to their own evening and week-end relaxation being affected by the sound of cutting, slicing and laminating. This is another example of issues re. teaching support staff – short sighted headteachers using support staff as cheap teachers, while teachers carrying out duties that don’t require their professional skills are a ‘cheaper’ employee than any member of support staff – as teachers time is ‘free’.

    I’m sure it’s not your organisational skills, Mizuno, which keep your workload down. You probably work in one of the small proportion of schools which have good leadership in place.

  16. I have just resigned from 20 years of teaching because I’m fed up with ridiculous long hours of prep, planning and marking. With 36 year 6 children the hours spent marking, with this ridiculous new marking system where you have to write in green pen and use 3 stars and a wish, I’ve sat at my kitchen table until 2am most days. That’s just literacy without the maths and other subjects.
    I would not recommend this profession to anyone. We enter to enrich the lives of our future generation. Unfortunately, we are expected to do the impossible with increased workload, bad behaviour and continued criticism from Mr Gove. I’d like to see him plan, teach and mark every day for a whole term to see how he’d cope! Oh – but then again he’s never even taught in the classroom has he????)

  17. Clearly Mizuno works in SMT. No teaching timetable and plenty of time think about how disorganised real teachers are…

  18. I just have to agree wholeheartedly with Tricia.

    I had a similar previous life to teaching, having spent thirty years in the automotive industry, involving design – development and project management. I have been in teaching for nearly twelve years, but was forced to resign my full time post because of the negative affects the ridiculous time demands was having on my family.

    I have been working as a supply teacher for the past fifteen months, with regular assignments at a small number of schools, and still I spend some time outside school planning and acquiring resources, but now it is much less as I am not sucked in to the bureaucratic maelstrom that is primary school these days. I can now focus on the reason I became a teacher, teaching the children.

    I feel sorry for young new teachers who have to accept the situation as they find it. unfortunately I have seen some such new teachers quit before they have had a chance to realise their full teaching potential, due in the main to the unmanageable workload.

  19. How funny. I was only doing this exact calculation the other day. I reckon I work between 56 and 60 hours a week. I’m a Primary class-based deputy head and a single mom of two. I don’t really begrudge working the hours, but I DO mind others not acknowledging it!

  20. I agree that organisation and management is key to being an effective teacher, but nothing quite prepares you for it and nobody tells you just how important these skills are and how to achieve it during your teacher training. But there are a number of other factors which impact workload such as how many different subjects you teach and the level of the children you have, how many years you’ve been teaching the same age group, the general behaviour and parental support, the age of the children (single aged or mixed), the classroom support you get (if any), the budget for both staffing and resources and the expectations of the senior management team when carrying out scrutinies, observations and performance management. I have worked in a number of schools and the workload has differed in every single one. It’s funny how the outstanding schools I worked in seemed somewhat less stressful places to be with less workload because everything seemed to be firmly in place and planning was regurgitated year on year with the attitude ‘If it aint broke, don’t fix it’.

  21. To Mizuno- it is impossible to do all the preparation and marking required of a UK teacher in 1 hour before lessons start! The marking requirement alone per evening usually goes to 2 hours. Marking is not just a question of correcting and grading, individual targets must be set for every pupil. Positive comments must also be made. These requirements mean that a set of 24 books will take over an hour to mark and a secondary teacher will on average have two sets to mark per evening. The teachers who work these long hours are professional people who put the needs of their students above their own and want to do their very best for them.

  22. The answer to my mind is simple. Refuse. Refuse to have your life stolen. Refuse to play the powers-that-be at their game. But we do need a mass of people who walk away and choose their own working pattern. Take less money, stuff the gadgets and expensive holidays and vote with your feet.
    Only then will Gove get the education service he so richly deserves.

  23. Hats off to Mizuno the superhuman teacher / magician. I’m a very organised teacher with 18 years experience in Primary teaching and i’ve successfully cut my hours down from 70 to 60…. over the years! I recently bumped into a primary teaching colleague who I haven’t seen for many years. She went part time due to excessive workload and is now paid for 2.5 days a week. She says it has really improved her life. She now only works 5 days a week and can actually take the weekend off (oh… and she still works evenings).

  24. Please, Mizuno, tell us what subject you teach and which school it is??? We will all be clamouring for a job there…

  25. I teach all subjects and run a department as well and an after school club once a week; I am not part of management. It really is possible to be this organised if ‘one believes in themselves’, no doubt most people think it is all rubbish. I don’t usually have a lunch break but then again I was never a lunch person, usually a cup of tea. The fact of the matter is I am glad to be in a job considering the economic situation in Britain and other European countries, so I do not moan and complain except for excessive health & safety measures… I try and get on with the job ONLY doing what is necessary. In all honesty I have worked at a number of other occupations in the past and have been teaching for seven years now. Because I get things done quickly and on time some staff members (all females) get irritated by this and hold a silent grudge, well tough s… thats life!

  26. I am afraid that Mizuno really gets up my nose with his comments.

    In an earlier post I referred to myself and others who’ve had other careers in which their high level organisational and other skills can be verified and that our views, being from other perspectives, should be particularly noted.

    Another group whose opinions should be valued as likely to be highly accurate are those of the non-teacher partners of primary teachers. It is now no longer the norm for the majority of teachers to be married to other teachers. I have regularly heard comments from these non-teachers relating to ridiculously high workloads of their partners.

    My partner works 12 hour shifts. His working week is therefore compressed into only 3 days. He gets overtime pay when working a 4th day. He would confirm that my working day was substantially longer than his, often 14 or 15 hours – and yet I was working 5 days and at least one other at the weekend. With these working hours, school holidays do not even match the breaks one would have with flexi-time working practices in other occupations.

    Primary teachers should become more militant. Gove wants to reintroduce the clerical tasks/display as part of workload. In primary schools, they never went away.

    Claire says that ‘nothing prepares you for it’. The point is that nothing should have to prepare you for it. I say that as a very ‘well prepared’ teacher – well prepared from other employment experience. It is poor management that requires it (as well as the high standards and expectations most teachers impose on themselves). When schools are well-managed, the workload is manageable.

    Gove is determined to see teaching as a job that finishes at 3.30. The cars in the car park each evening, should tell him otherwise – as should the sight of teachers arriving in a morning and unloading boxes of marking/preparation.

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