- 44,000 teachers used the Government’s ‘Workload Challenge’ to highlight the factors which make their workload excessive and unsustainable. The Government’s response1, published in February 2015, was a missed opportunity focusing on slowing down the pace of change and improving training, whilst ignoring the central point about reforming the high stakes system of accountability, with specific reference to Ofsted, which is driving unnecessary workload for teachers and school leaders.
- It is a popular misconception that teachers only work from 9am-3:30pm. The school day may be shorter than the standard office day but teachers put in extra hours before and after the school day and at weekends. Teachers spend many extra hours planning lessons, marking work, assessing pupils, inputting data, organising and running extra-curricular activities and taking on wider-school roles and responsibilities.
- Another misconception is that teachers are not covered by the Working Time Directive. In fact all teachers are covered by the EU Working Time Directive2 and by the UK Working Time Regulations 19983 as amended. A further myth is that the statutory working time protections are negated by the School Teachers’ Pay & Conditions Document (STPCD). The STPCD reinforces the legal position that it does not conflict with the Working Time Directive4. It goes on to state explicitly that governing bodies and head teachers must have regard to the working limits set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 when allocating work to teachers5.
- Working time should not exceed on average 48 hours a week over a 17 week period6. The requirement on teachers to ‘work such reasonable additions hours as may be necessary to enable the effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties’7 does not displace this protection. Teachers are not included in the list of ‘exceptions’ to whom the 48 hour limit does not apply8 and the employers of those teachers have a duty to ensure that the working time limit is complied with9.
- The Department for Education published the 2016 Teachers' Working Time Survey16 in February 2017. It showed that teachers are working on average 54.4 hours per week, with 93 per cent of teachers saying workload is a fairly or very serious problem. The figures showed that teachers have to spend an average of 60 per cent of working hours on tasks other than teaching. Primary teachers new to the profession are working nearly 19 hours per week outside school hours, causing many to leave the profession within just a few years of qualifying. School leaders' average weekly hours are even higher.
- This was backed up by TUC analysis of unpaid overtime17 that was published on the same day (Work Your Proper Hours Day 2017) which showed that an average of 12.1 hours of unpaid overtime per worker for teaching and educational professionals. Putting them second only to Chief Executives who worked 13.2 hours of unpaid overtime.
- In September 2014 the NUT undertook its own survey13. The responses made for depressing reading highlighting the negative impact of high workload on teachers, their families and ultimately on the school system. 90% of respondents had considered leaving teaching in the last two years, 96.5% said workload has negative consequences for family or personal life and 82% said more trust in teachers would help retention.
- Working hours of 55-60 hours a week, combined with continual change and upheaval and denigration of the profession by politicians makes for a stressful mix. Teachers’ working hours are also inflexible. It is very difficult for teachers to take time off during term time, for example to attend an event at their own child’s school.
- An ETUC(E) survey14, the findings of which were published in May 2013, showed that out of 37 European countries, UK teachers scored highest for ‘burnout’. This is bad for pupils and schools as well as for the teachers themselves. It also gives lie to the idea that teachers only work from 9am-3:30pm
- The findings of the latest TUC Biennial survey of union safety reps15, showed that stress was one of the top concerns for 80 per cent of respondents from the education sector.
1 The Government response to the Workload Challenge is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/workload-challenge-for-schools-government-response
2 EU Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC
3 UK Working Time Regulations 1998 as amended SI 1998/1833
4 School Teachers’ Pay & Conditions Document 2016 www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-pay-and-conditions-2016, paragraph 52.1
5 School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2016 www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-pay-and-conditions-2016,paragraph 53.4
6 SI 1998/1833, regulation 4
7 School Teachers’ Pay & Conditions Document 2016 www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-pay-and-conditions-2016, paragraph 52.7
8 SI 1998/1833, Part3
9 SI 1998/1833, regulation 4(2)
11 Teachers Workload Diary Survey 2013, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teachers-workload-diary-survey-2013
12 Teachers Workload Diary Survey 2010, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teachers-workload-diary-survey-2010
13 NUT Teachers and Workload survey 2014, available at https://www.teachers.org.uk/files/teachers-and-workload-survey-report-september-2014.pdf
14 Impact of psychosocial hazards on education and workers’ health: Teachers Work-Related Stress European – wide survey http://teachersosh.homestead.com/Health_and_Safety_in_Crisis/HealthandSafety_PLA.html
15 TUC Biennial Survey of Safety Reps 2012 – http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/safety-representatives/safety-representatives-survey-2012
16 Teacher workload survey 2016 available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-workload-survey-2016
17 TUC analysis of unpaid overtime available at http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2017/02/33-6-billion-unpaid-overtime-free-work-costing-us-lot/