A new study has confirmed something we might have already expected: teachers work more unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry. In some cases, it’s up to 13 additional hours a week – and nearly 60% of secondary teachers are affected by this. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, has some understandably strong opinions about the issue: “We already have a shortage of teachers in many subjects. Unless teachers’ working lives are improved significantly, the situation will only get worse, with many experienced teachers and graduates either leaving or not even considering entering the profession.”
The cause? “Government education policies and initiatives, including the totally out-of-control accountability systems”, argues Blower: again, this hardly comes as a surprise.Though she doesn’t quite say it, the introduction of Progress 8 is set to be yet another accountability measure that increases the workload of teachers – its data heavy approach and the requirement to constantly monitor student performance to ensure progress is sure to result in more paperwork, more school bureaucracy. How much more work can teachers take without it affecting their ability to perform in the classroom?
There’s a stereotype that teachers have lots of free time: that big summer break, half terms scattered throughout the school year, time off at Christmas and Easter. Yet this stereotype clearly isn’t accurate, and few professionals would realistically choose to swap their current workload with that of a teacher’s. Worse still, this is reflected in a severe drop in the number of new teachers, and a rise in teachers leaving the profession. With the solution to this crisis so obvious – let teachers get on with teaching, cut the paperwork – the lack of response from those in power is startling. It’s hardly a radical demand to say that teachers should have a better work / life balance – if anything, it’s a better guarantee of quality in the classroom than endless form filling.