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…