Is teacher workload in England improving, and how does it compare to three years ago?
The Teacher Workforce Survey helps act as a national ‘barometer’ for teachers’ working conditions and forms a key part of the Department for Education’s (DfE) commitment to improving the evidence base on what drives unnecessary teacher workload and what works to reduce it.
I’ve skimmed the 127 pages so you don’t have to. I hope it helps you in your school to determine where you sit within the profession on the topic of workload. You can download the full paper on the Department for Education website.
Research Sample Size
- In total, 1,203 schools were selected and approached.
- Of these schools, 449 agreed to take part in the survey, representing a total of 20,704.
- After removing responses from non-teaching staff, the final sample comprised 7,287 teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders from 404 schools.
- This represented a 35 per cent response rate at the teacher/leader level among schools that agreed to participate.
- Overall, 4,949 (68 per cent) agreed to be matched and 4,103 were successfully linked to their School Workforce Census data, enabling the research team to gather demographic and contract information.
- Therefore, 66 per cent (post-weighting) of women responded to the survey with 20 per cent of men.
- 61 per cent were teachers, 25 per cent middle leaders and 14 per cent school leaders.
- 53 per cent have more than 11 years’ teaching experience.
- The split of local authority schools and academies was 50-50; the same for primary and secondary respondents.
- About 21 per cent work part-time.
Comparing 2016 to 2019
I have been writing about teacher workload as early as 2013 when Nicky Morgan (former Secretary of State for Education) announced that the DfE would do more to tackle teacher workload. To be fair, the DfE are trying and apparently, when comparing this 2019 report to the TWS of 2016, things are getting better! The survey and subsequent analysis was designed to answer the following research questions:
- What is the national picture of teachers’ working hours and what are their perceptions of their workload?
- Are there any substantial differences in workload between different types of teachers and school contexts?
- How have workload and perceptions about workload changed over time (since the 2016 TWS)?
- Teachers and middle leaders report working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016.
- The number of hours teachers and middle leaders report working out-of-school hours has fallen!
- Senior leaders also reported working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016. For me, without sufficient funding to reduce contact time during the working day, this is the crux of the issue.
- All teachers reported spending broadly similar amounts of time on teaching in 2019 as they did in 2016.
- Teachers and middle leaders average 21.3 hours of teaching (21.6 hours in 2016).
- Primary teachers and middle leaders average 22.9 hours on teaching (23.1 hours in 2016).
- Secondary teachers and middle leaders average 19.9 hours on teaching (20.3 hours in 2016)
- Most reported spending less time on lesson planning, marking and pupil supervision in 2019 than in 2016.
- Primary teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders were less likely than those in the secondary phase to say that workload was a ‘very’ serious problem.
- Most respondents reported that they could not complete their workload within their contracted hours, that they did not have an acceptable workload, and that they did not achieve a good work-life balance.
- Most were positive about the professional development time and support they receive.
- Most reported that their schools had made efforts to change their policies and approaches to reduce workload, but that these had met with mixed success to date.
From the data it is clear that all schools must appoint a workload committee. Something I tried to do as a deputy headteacher – was to control all deadlines, but it was a fruitless effort alone – if others were not taking responsibility for the demands placed upon one another. Oversight of deadlines, including all those set verbally on the corridors or in meetings, or those sent privately in an email, must be centralised!
Tables and Figures
- Figure 1: Average total working hours of teachers and middle leaders by phase
- Figure 2: Total working hours for full-time and part-time teachers and middle leaders
- Figure 4: Teachers and middle leaders average 12.8 hours during weekends, evenings or other out-of-school hours.
- Figure 5: Average hours spent teaching in the reference week, by phase
- Figure 6: Average hours worked on non-teaching activities
- Figure 9: shows the average working hours reported by senior leaders
- Figure 10: shows senior leaders working during weekends, evenings and other out-of-school hours
- Figure 12: Perceptions of primary teachers and middle leaders on the amount of time spent on non-teaching tasks
- Figure 13: Perceptions of secondary teachers and middle leaders on time spent on non-teaching tasks
- Figure 14: Perceptions of primary teachers and middle leaders on time spent on support and management
- Figure 15: Perceptions of secondary teachers and middle leaders on time spent on support and management
- Figure 16: Perceptions of primary teachers and middle leaders on time spent on administrative activities
- Figure 17: Perceptions of secondary teachers and middle leaders on time spent on administrative activities
- Figure 18: Perceptions of time primary senior leaders spent on leadership tasks
- Figure 19: Perceptions of time secondary senior leaders spent on leadership tasks
- Figure 20: Strategies used by primary senior leaders to manage and plan professional time
- Figure 21: Strategies used by secondary senior leaders to manage and plan
- Figure 23: Primary teachers’ and middle leaders’ levels of agreement on statements about working hours
- Figure 24: Secondary teachers’ and middle leaders’ levels of agreement on statements about working hours
- Figure 25: Teachers’ views on their school’s working environment
- Figure 26: Primary teachers’, middle and senior leaders’ views on revisions to policies to reduce workload
- Figure 27: Secondary teachers’, middle and senior leaders’ views on revisions to policies to reduce workload
- Figure 28: Teachers’, middle and senior leaders’ views on professional development
- Figure 29: Teachers’ and middle leaders’ views about line management.
- Table 4: all of the regions were broadly representative of the teacher population.
- Table 5: Teachers had spent, on average, just under half the amount of time in the teaching profession as senior leaders. Senior leaders in both phases had been in the teaching profession for around 20 years, middle leaders for around 15 years, while teachers had about 11 years’ experience in the profession.
- Table 6 summarises the differences in average reported working hours between groups of teachers.
- Table 7: Average total working hours of teachers by role and years of experience.
- Table 8 summarises the differences between schools of different types and in different Ofsted categories.
- Table 9: Average teaching hours of teachers and middle leaders during the reference week, by phase, role and years of experience.
- Table 11: Percentage of senior leaders who worked some time on listed activities.
Despite the reductions in average working hours, most respondents said they still felt they spent too much time on planning, marking, data management and general administrative work. The report also suggests that “improving teachers’ perceptions of their workload involves more than just reducing the number of hours they work.”
Interestingly, teachers in primary academies, middle leaders, respondents from secondary schools and respondents in Ofsted-category Requires Improvement or Inadequate schools are more likely to report that workload is a problem. The report concludes: “The DfE may want to explore further the underlying causes of these views of workload, and how it might further help to reduce the unnecessary workload of the teachers in these groups.”
The DfE would do well to send those in positions of power to visit actual schools working in challenging contexts. They may begin to understand the issues…