Work Mania!

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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As an individual, is confronting ‘work-mania’ pointless, or do we need a collective shift as a profession?

If the government does not do something seriously about teacher-workload, I fear for the longevity of the classroom teacher.

Nick Gibb has interpreted this research paper as evidence to increase class sizes: “teacher workload won’t reduce unless class sizes are increased.” What the report actually says, is that “with pupil numbers in secondary schools set to increase, it is unlikely that teaching timetables can be reduced without an increase in class sizes should teacher numbers not keep pace.

Note, if teacher numbers are not kept (or increase) in the same numbers. What chance to do we have with current demands in light of poor pay, rapid policy reform, unprecedented workload and increasing student numbers?

The Research:

England’s teachers work the longest hours and get paid one of the worst salaries in OECD countries. Education Policy Institute (EPI) We need a seismic shift as a society. We need to re-define our meaning of success, and I do not think we can address the issue of workload alone in personal fixes to health, work and workload. We need a cultural shift in attitude.

We often think that everyone works so much because we need the money. This may well be true, given how incomes have stagnated and living costs skyrocketed in much of the western world. But several other changes have also aided this creeping colonisation of life by our jobs. First, it must be noted that not everybody is participating in the paid workforce, since there are still high levels of unemployment in many countries … Second, mobile technology certainly plays a role since we are always connected – sometimes obsessively so, checking emails even when unnecessary …Third, the popular trend of reclassifying people as self-employed and contractors encourages overwork, because you only get paid for the direct hours you put in. And fourth, our society is currently gripped by a pervasive ideology of work. ~ The Guardian.

Research published by The Education Policy Institute argues that there has been rather less policy and analytical focus on those people who actually deliver education – teachers – and how we recruit, retain and develop them. The report – which considers responses from over 100,000 lower secondary school teachers – seeks to compare the experiences of teachers in England with those in the 35 other jurisdictions, and explore differences across teachers within England.

Key Findings:

  1. Teachers in England are working longer hours than in most other countries.
  2. Long working hours are hindering teachers’ access to continuing professional development (CPD).
  3. Long hours, low starting pay and limited access to professional development create a risk of teacher ‘burn out’, especially in the early stages of careers.
  4. There is no evidence that additional classroom assistants mean lower working hours for teachers.
  5. Teachers in outstanding schools (defined by the most recent Ofsted inspection at the time) tend to work the same number of hours as teachers in other schools but, when compared to satisfactory or inadequate schools, they are less likely to report their workload as ‘unmanageable’.

Data Analysis:

The data shown below includes:

  • International comparison of working hours
  • Distribution of working hours for full-time teachers
  • Percentage of teachers agreeing their workload is unmanageable
  • Full-time teaching hours by task
  • Working long hours by OfSTED category
  • Relative pay and working hours
  • Barriers to professional development
  • Type of professional development and total days spent
  • Hours by task for teachers of different subjects

Click to expand.

Policy Implications:

The analysis in this report highlights that:

  • Workload should be a cause for concern for professional development and teaching quality as well as for the wellbeing of teachers themselves.
  • Teachers in England are spending significantly more time on non-teaching activities which are contributing to excessive working hours.
  • With pupil numbers in secondary schools set to increase, it is unlikely that teaching timetables can be reduced without an increase in class sizes should teacher numbers not keep pace.

The DfE should monitor the implementation of new pay freedoms, which offer an opportunity to achieve a better balance in relative pay across a teacher’s career, and encourage multi-academy trusts to learn from and spread good practice within their chains.

Only last week I removed apps from my personal devices to take back control of my workload (outside of working hours). Work-life balance is a fallacy and there is little capacity in teaching to refine, reflect and improve. In many instances, teaching can feel like we are only fire-fighting day-to-day. If the government do not do something about it, I fear for the profession.

Read my 12 Smarts Steps to reduce Teacher Workload.

The full report can be downloaded here:


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