The Working Lives of Teachers and Leaders, England

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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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How should the government use its data to improve the English teaching profession?

Despite our teachers having the ability to work incredibly faster than most, government interventions appear to be rather sluggish. As a a result, government interventions hinder the potential of our state schools, our teachers and our leaders.

I’ve been researching the conditions of our state schools across England, particularly teacher workload, for over a decade. Nothing surprises me  here in this data, regarding government interventions (or not), and the state of our education system …

Published in April 2023, the working lives of teachers and leaders across England (DfE, 2023) documents the current landscape in 179 pages. Here is my summary for busy classroom teachers and school leaders to digest. 

Firstly, the research sample size.

  1. We have approximately 505,000 teachers
  2. 11, 117 teachers and leaders responded to the survey
  3. Therefore, all statistics have been weighted.
  4. 41 per cent of teachers work in primary and 41% in secondary schools
  5. 5 per cent work pupil referral units (PRUs) and alternative provision (AP)
  6. The majority of the workforce is White (39%) and under 35 years old.

Working lives of teachers and leaders


You can read my State of the Nation, England analysis for comparative purposes if you are interested in any pre-COVID analysis.

Teacher and leader characteristics

There are approximately 206,000 teachers in primary and 206,000 working in secondary schools. Most (29%) have been working between five and up to 10 years in their current school, with more teachers having a ‘responsibility’ for others than classroom teachers without …

  1. 90 per cent of teachers have a degree-level qualification in their main subject taught.
  2. 67 per cent of citizenship teachers have no qualification in the subject!
  3. A small proportion of teachers work in humanities, PE and business without a qualification. Design and technology too!

Working lives of teachers and leaders

What is more alarming is that the average career span of a teacher in England is just 13 years, with the greatest attrition post-year one qualification.

Teacher workload

  1. Teachers’ working hours remain at 50(ish) for classroom teachers, rising to 56.8 (mean) for school leaders.
  2. The data for this has been fairly consistent.
  3. The data does report that no. of workload hours is reducing!
  4. Younger, part-time teachers= have a tougher time managing deadlines and work.
  5. By sector? Secondary school leaders report working the longest hours: School leaders at 60.5 hrs (2016) 56.8 hrs (2022)  and teachers at 54.4 hrs (2016) 48.7hrs (2022), per week, during term time.
  6. Workload is higher in academies rather than in local-authority-maintained schools
  7. Secondary teachers reported more of their time spent on ‘tasks’ not teaching (73%)

The message? Teach in a local authority primary school if you are searching for a more balanced working life.

It’s also worth adding that teachers in state schools are contracted for 1,265 hours per academic year, although academy arrangements technically do not match state school teachers’ terms and conditions.

Either way, if we multiply 50 hours (mean) by 38 school weeks, that’s 1,900 hours teachers are completing to keep up with the administration outside of the classroom. Twenty-five of those hours (across 38 weeks) are generally associated with classroom teaching (depending on role), or 950 hours of teaching per academic year.

This leaves the rest of the reported time (1,900 hours) to complete paperwork within the available contracted time (1,265).

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What do teachers spend the most time doing?

  1. 75% general admin
  2. 53% data recording
  3. 50% behaviour follow up
  4. 48% lesson planning
  5. 46% marking!
  6. 35% communication home
  7. 29% counselling/tuition
  8. 29% teamwork
  9. 21% additional extracurricular duties!
  10. 9% external contact

Working lives of teachers and leaders

What do school leaders spend the most time doing?

  1. 68% responding to government
  2. 50% school admin
  3. 45% external admin
  4. 29% data analysis
  5. 24% staff appraisal
  6. 21% recruitment

Do teachers and school leaders believe their workload is fair? The vast majority disagree, with more experienced teachers and leaders  likely to disagree. Those that did said workload was unfair said: Reporting poor pupil behaviour (81%) Those teaching MFL (78%) Lowest proportion of FSM (72%)

Managing workload

Do school strategies have in place strategies for managing and planning professional time? Only 9% per cent of schools said they did! What revisions are schools making to their policies to reduce workload? Something I’ve also been looking at for the last 9 years.

  1. Marking 29% = reduced
  2. Data entry 26% = increased!
  3. Behaviour 29% = no difference
  4. Lesson planning = 18% increased!
  5. Appraisal 22% = no difference

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There is lots more information, particularly on pupil behaviour, teacher training in schools as well as diversity,  bullying and harassment as well as teacher pay. There is much to digest in the original document, but there is enough information to keep many people up-to-date with the state of the teaching profession.

Luckily, if you’ve read this far, I’ve summarised all 179 pages in this single thread.


I believe that the government has sufficient data to understand the current issues across the profession. It knows the solutions and chooses to ignore some of them. There are some issues schools can fix for themselves, but accountability and lack of funding and innovation are definitely hindering progress.

In a period of time where high costs of living, evolving technology and more flexible working opportunities are on the increase, the government must work harder to make, what is a brilliant career, remain desirable for the modern era …

Whitehall, we have a (retention) problem.

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