Depending on who you talk to, teachers work anywhere between ‘a cosy amount of hours, leave by 3:30pm and then enjoy massive holidays’ to ‘a horrific number of stressful hours in overfilled classrooms, trying desperately to fit into our exam culture.’
The former will come from disgruntled parents, educational traditionalists and anti-unionists I’m sure. The latter? Most likely teachers I think.
Truth be told, there’s no way of getting this information out in the open without appearing to take one side or the other. I’ll try and keep it as neutral as I can.
What we are lucky to have are the annual results from the Department for Education – a clever delve into the world of teaching thanks to some nice diary-keeping. With that in mind, we should be able to get a nice look into the hours that teachers really work.
- How long is a teaching working week? – According to the survey, heading the list are secondary school headteachers who fit in 63.3 hours a week – for a five day week that’s 12 hours 40 minutes a day. Not quite your ‘nice to finish at 3:30pm’ is it? In fact, it’s longer than Interestingly, primary school teachers work longer than secondary school teachers – 59.3 hours a week (11 hours 51 minutes a day) compared to 55.7 hours a week for the latter, or 11 hours 8 minutes a day.
In secondary school academies, it works out at 55.2 hours a week.
- How long of that is actually in a classroom? – This is perhaps a rather key piece of information, as this is what teachers get paid to do primarily. Secondary school headteachers only spend on average 2.8 hours a week in the classroom, but I don’t think this surprises us – we all see headteachers as managers, rather than purely teachers. For the others surveyed?
Primary school teachers will spend roughly 19 hours a week in the classroom – that’s 32% of their time. Secondary school teachers, meanwhile, spent 19.6 hours a week in the classroom, or around 35% of their working week.
Personally, I find the latter rather worrying. I understand that teachers have marking to do and some sort of paperwork, but so much so that they’re only spending a third of their working lives actually teaching? Crikey, this I don’t think I was expecting at all.
Either way, it does go to show that the traditional argument of ‘home by 3:30pm’ from people isn’t really standing up so well at the moment. Speaking of which…
- When asked about how much time they spent out of school hours getting work complete – the results showed something that only goes to disprove the 3:30pm notion. In this case, out-of-hours work was defined as ‘before 8am, after 6pm, and at weekends.’
For primary school teachers, out-of-hours work made up 23.8% of their working week – just over 2 hours a day, seven days a week. Secondary school teachers’ out-of-hours work accounted for 21.4% of their week – or 1 hour 42 minutes a day. For headteachers of secondary schools, it was more or less identical. Interestingly, headteachers put in more than six hours of work each weekend, according to the survey.
- What about general administration? Completing paperwork was something I was looking out for in the details of the survey. The only given response was from primary school teachers, who spent on average 4 hours 18 minutes a week on paperwork and administration. 45% of respondents said that the amount of “unnecessary or bureaucratic” paperwork had increased, with 5% saying it had fallen.
What was most troubling what that the majority of the paperwork that was branded as unnecessary by teachers revolved around Ofsted inspections. Headteachers also cited changing government policy as a cause for unnecessary bureaucracy in schools.
It is rather startling to see that so many teachers seem to spend to little time in the classroom actually teaching and are spending nearly five hours a week purely for doing paperwork. It seems that teachers are having to act as administrators and are too involved in paperwork to actually get on with their job.
And do you know what? Teachers aren’t paid overtime or anything to cover the cost of the time that they aren’t originally paid for. Last year, we covered this idea in an article about teacher’s pay where we revealed that, across the nation, our teacher rack up 325 million hours of extra work which they are not paid for. According to the Trade Union Congress (TUC), this stacked up to £7bn in unpaid labour, or £11,600 per teacher, per year. It’s definitely troubling to see that this isn’t changing in any way, and that teachers seem to spend much of their lives doing paperwork and preparing for inspections, all for free.
If you are a newly-qualified teacher, £11,600 is almost half of what you’d earn in a year. Effectively then, the government is taking a third off teachers by not truly accounting for the work they do. But hang on, we’ve already established that out-of-hours work accounts for only around a quarter of their working lives… that would just lead me to argue that teachers are simply being underpaid – the amount they are losing out on is greater than what they would have gained from being paid for doing out-of-hours work. Shocking and somewhat irritating for those teachers, I’m sure.
It’s a shame that the report did not consider how much work teachers get up to in the holidays – that would a be a fascinating read and would perhaps settle the other argument that we hear about from various groups:
“Lucky you, only having to work term-time.”
I can imagine it would grate a lot with some teachers out there, but sadly we don’t have any evidence to suggest that teachers do too much work in the holidays. Anecdotally, however, we do hear a lot about teachers who mark work over various half terms and the like.
It’s clear to me that the claims that teachers get an easy deal on hours is rather unjust, especially given that they’re missing out financially. On top of that, they’re often not doing what they’re being paid to do, but merely writing up reports, preparing for inspections and filing administration.
Ultimately, I think teachers need to be rewarded for the hours they really put in… and to bring the focus for them back to teaching.