Teachers’ workload “unsustainable”

The average secondary school teacher is working 56 hours a week
The average secondary school teacher is working 56 hours a week

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has said that many teachers feel totally overwhelmed by an “astonishing increase” in workload.

Commenting on the government’s Workload Diary 2013 survey, Mike MacDonald, Northern Region Secretary of the NUT said: “This survey shows an astonishing increase in the hours that teachers are working on Michael Gove’s watch.

“No-one enters the profession expecting a 9-5 job, but working in excess of 55 hours a week and during holidays is entirely unacceptable.

“The average primary teacher is now working nearly 60 hours per week. Secondary heads 63 hours and the average secondary teacher is working nearly 56 hours a week. This is simply unsustainable. Many teachers feel totally overwhelmed and it is hardly surprising that two-in-five leave the profession after their first five years in the job and morale is at an all-time low.

“This is an issue that should concern everyone. Our children deserve enthusiastic, energetic teachers not overworked and stressed ones.”

Publication of the DfE findings comes before talks open between the government and teacher unions. The NUT said it will be pressing for serious government action to address the workload, which would “require a change of culture”.

The survey also showed teachers and heads reporting time spent on unnecessary and bureaucratic tasks. In December 2013, an NUT-commissioned survey of the teaching profession showed almost two-thirds of teachers said that more than a fifth of their workload does not directly benefit children’s learning.

Mr MacDonald added: “Teachers need to be free to concentrate on their lessons, not spending excessive time compiling evidence that they are doing their job or planning or collecting data to a degree which does not support learning”.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The results of this survey provide a snapshot of what we already know — that the vast majority of our teachers and school leaders are hardworking and dedicated professionals.

“We are giving teachers more freedoms than ever and cutting unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy. In fact, teaching has never been more attractive, more popular or more rewarding. A record number of top graduates are now applying to become teachers and vacancy rates are at their lowest since 2005.

“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.”