Teachers’ never-ending homework

270315 teachers overworked article 255

It has been reported that the average working week of a UK teacher is about 60 hours a week, often resulting in stress related absence and record breaking numbers leaving the profession. Teachers work more unpaid overtime than any other profession, but what is being done to rectify this?

The age old myth of a teachers’ working day finishing at half three with the never-ending holidays has never been so incorrect. Anyone who knows a teacher will know this couldn’t be further from the truth. The holidays may seem longer but the workload rivals the busiest of employees in the commercial sector.

A recent DFE survey reported that that in 2013 the average primary school teacher worked 60 hour week, with on average 22% of these hours being worked at home in evenings and weekends. So what is causing this huge workload? To try and get to the bottom of this last October the Department of Education launched the Workload Challenge, a survey to find out what teachers felt wasted the most amount of their time, and what could be done to reduce any unnecessary work.

44,000 teachers responded to Nicky Morgan’s invitation to tell her if they had any problems with their workload. They told the Education Secretary about familiar problems like bureaucracy and too many government initiatives, but also issues such as having to record any verbal feedback they give pupils, in case of complaints.

From these findings the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Secretary have devised a six point plan, with the aim to reduce this excessive workload. The Independent reports that the plan outlined that they would give at least a year’s notice in future of any significant policy changes or Ofsted framework changes during the school year. But surely this should just be common place practice?! Something which the education sector hasn’t seen in years – continuity in assessment and policy! This lack of action sparked an angry reaction from teaching unions who wrote to Nick Clegg and Nicky Morgan informing them of how this was seen as a “missed opportunity” and teachers will be “bitterly disappointed” by these measures to reduce the workload.

But what is the true cost of all this extra workload on the teaching profession? The NASUWT Union recently conducted a survey that showed 83% of teachers had reported workplace stress and an increasing amount of teachers have taken stress-related sick leave, which unions have linked to excessive hours and challenging working practices. The survey also showed that 67% implied teaching has had adversely impacted their mental or physical health. The NUT’s Christine Blower has long pointed out that “Working weekends and long into the evenings under such intense scrutiny and pressure is detrimental to the health, family and social life of teachers and is clearly bad for education.”

Worrying figures from the Absence Protection show that stress actually accounts for more than double the number of days taken off for illnesses such as colds and viruses. With this in mind is it any wonder that in 2011-12 in Wales alone £54million was spent on supply staff; money which could be put towards paying teachers a better wage or paying for overtime worked?

The lack of trust Ofsted and past governments appear to have in our teachers and education professionals could be seen as one of the main reasons for the excessive workload and the cause for the resulting increase in stress.

Famously Sir Michael Wilshaw (Ofsted’s chief inspector) was reported by The Times saying that teachers who were “out the gate at 3pm” should not be promoted and to gain good pay teachers need to go the ‘extra mile’. Perhaps this just further demonstrates how out of touch with reality OFSTED and the government are. Do you or any teacher you know leave school at 3pm?! If 22% of total working hours are completed at home in the weekend and evening, isn’t this going the extra mile? If not what is?!

The constant push to fill out spreadsheet after spreadsheet, taking photos of practical sessions, recording all oral feedback, takes its time and this is before marketing or lesson prep has even begun. Is Ofsted actually helping schools and teacher with this extra work? Does it help children, better schools and aid learning? Will Nick Clegg and Nicky Morgan’s six point plan make a difference? Have your say…

10 thoughts on “Teachers’ never-ending homework

  1. The government has made a decision not to properly address the situation of excessive workload on the teachers that they employ. This has been drawn to their attention for a number of years. Governments are elected on their performance and this government has failed teachers in this matter. I would like a campaign to ask political parties about their policies on teachers workload. The replies should be forwarded to teachers so that they can vote accordingly.

  2. It is right to be concerned about teachers’ workload, rather over workload. However, even in your, otherwise carefully considered article, it seems that we cannot get off the issue of pay. You quote that millions of pounds were spent on supply teachers covering illness of teachers, then you suggest this money may have been better spent on paying teachers overtime for the extra hours they work – this is NOT dealing with work overload and the stress it is causing. As a teacher I’m not interested in being paid any more than I am, I just want the overwork to stop! There are so many things we have to do just to ‘tick the box’, ‘cover your back’, ‘evidence that you actually did that / the child did/achieved/said that’. As a professional my word is no longer good enough, my judgement is mistrusted and I have to be constantly scrutinised to prove I am doing my job. I’d like to see half the politicians come under the constant, unrelenting scrutiny teachers have to bear. Moreover, this is not about giving children a better education. it is about politicians trying to prove they are doing something about education. Unfortunately, the one thing they need to do, ie listen to the teachers in the classrooms, they decide not to do.

  3. In my school it is getting worse – I teach year two
    – each piece of work needs to be marked with three stars and a wish- the wish being a question, which the pupils then answer and the teacher then comments again – you must have dialogue with the pupils we are told. Even if the lesson is drama the children have to write a comment about how they felt they did – teacher then has to mark it. Making sure every word the child has written is spelt correctly …On an average day that is 30 books times four lessons!!!!

    Then we are told our lessons need to be more creative – I think I am in the wrong job…

  4. As a teacher it is a job I would not recommend any more as a profession due to large amounts of work completed at home. Also the ever changing curriculum, data handling, standards and expectations result in less home life and more stress to keep up, so you don’t let people down or the children.

  5. Well, its meant to be the easter hols but I already had to go into work 3 times last week for 3 hours each time to get stuff done that I cannot fit into my working day. So thats 9 extra hours actually on site so far. Plus, I have also been getting stuff ready for next term – planning, reorganising class groups, preparing a variety of word processed stuff I have to get done, printed, laminated etc – have done at least another 7 or 8 hours so far of this and anticipate I need to get another 5 hours or so done in order to be ready for the summer term. In between this I am trying to have a ‘holiday’ consisting of collecting and returning eldest child from Uni (home for holiday) a drive of 150 miles each way, both he and younger sibling have dental appointments, also deal with my 88 year old father in law – he needs taking to dentist too – younger child has 2 opticians appointments, have several phone calls to make to various companies, hospital (need to rearrange an appointment) and follow up calls to store for younger childs prom dress (!) coupled with probably going in to get it fitted and all that malarky, as well as doctors appointments for self and eldest. Also, youngest has to attend secondary school GCSE revision sessions on 4 of the days for between 2-4 hours at a time – have to get her there and back in between everything else (she cannot travel independently due to medical condition) Obviously these things cannot be done when I am in school term time therefore my ‘holiday’ is crammed with this type of day to day stuff. Somewhere in between I think there is actually one whole day where nothing is planned and that is meant to be my ‘holiday’ – no doubt something will crop up to spoil it, and then it will be the new term and it all starts again. TBH, going back to school will be like a rest! If I didnt have a mortgage to pay and kids to put through Uni I would stop teaching.

  6. I agree with all above. I don’t want more money for working more, unless someone adds hours to the day or days to the week, I cannot physically fit more in.
    If I have ‘a day off’ to clean , iron , cook , take my son out, I feel like I am cutting corners and holidays become a race to get everything done that a normal mum can do after she has finished work term time.
    I would stop teaching tomorrow if I could find another way to pay girl my mortgage , after 16 years of teaching, no money will inspire me, but a drastically cut down workload may give me some kind of life back.
    I don’t enjoy my job as I used to. I feel treated lower than the kids I teach despite being a university graduate who happened to have a fairly intelligent mind of my own. All that’s gone, because after years of doing what I am told by people who have little clue, I just get on with it…. Money? Motivation ? Career progression ? Never mind that, I m hoping to be able to make the next 25 years till I m 65 alive !

  7. I so sympathise with the other posts. I was made redundant some years ago and as a more mature teacher have no chance of getting a post.the question I ask myself is are the children leaving school today any better educated than my children were when school was fun, teachers had time to do activities because we could, my children did sewing, knitting and cooking In primary school as well as all the other curriculum subjects. They left primary school competent readers and writers and with these other life skills as well. The workloads for teachers today is outrageous , ridiculously detailed plans which take longer to prepare than the lesson. I know this because I am now one of those supply teachers who are called in when the teachers are too exhausted to carry on. I don’t enjoy supply but have little choice but I know that I couldn’t cope with the workload of a full time teacher. No wonder NQTs are leaving the profession in droves !
    My daughter wanted to go into teaching and I know she would have been a good teacher but I actively dissuaded her from doing so. Over my many years in etching I have see every new fad, plan, initiative come round again under a new guise. Leave the teachers alone to do their job. They know what the children need and don’t need all the other rubbish that goes with it.

  8. This whole work at home business is ludicrous-it’s a job not a hobby. Who takes their ironing to work? If the bosses want the work doing let them purchase the time needed.

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