The Pressure is On to Address Teachers’ Workload

Why do your teachers work long hours?
Do you know how many hours your teachers work on average per week?

A survey commissioned by the DfE [1] indicates that teachers are working an average of nearly 54 hours a week and senior leaders working around 62 hours a week.  Some must work much longer hours to give such an average.  The report on the survey indicates that there are three main causes: marking, planning and data management.

Head Teachers and Governors Can Address Those Issues

The issue of long working hours is not a recent one but it is accentuated by the shortage of teachers.   The first question above starts with a ‘why?’  because Head Teachers and Governors are in a position to address such explained in earlier articles on this blog, for example, ‘Pressure on the School v Pressure on the Teacher’. 

The evidence for taking action is growing as are the examples of and ideas for effective action.  The Sources section below cites some articles and further reading.

Governors have a responsibility to support the Head Teacher in tackling the issue rather than content themselves with the view that the problem is beyond them.   New Heads and those parachuted in to a troubled school often place themselves under great pressure to improve results in a few months – that pressure is passed on knowingly or unknowingly to the teaching staff who often face a raft of new initiatives with the result that individuals become tired and anxious and do not think as clearly as they would without such pressures.

Governors have a valuable role in helping the Head and SLT to challenge themselves to weed out any unnecessary demands and administrative tasks that detract from teaching.

Planning for Whose Benefit?

One would think that it was for the benefit of pupils/students but it can be the opposite.  Heads sometimes use it as a means of monitoring their staff but that can lead to time consuming paper plans that do not necessarily translate into improvements in learning outcomes.   A key article in the Guardian [2] gives some different perspectives on planning and a lighter touch approach.

Instances will occur in which teachers need to improve their skills but focusing on paper evidence is more likely to aggravate the problem especially if the individuals are feeling undue pressure.  Cut through the paper plans and help them to see how they can deliver more effective learning in their class situations.  That produces multiple benefits; a more confident teacher; improved learning outcomes; a less stressed individual and a Head/SLT who will benefit from a teacher’s performance which has been turned around.

Peculiar Motivation for School Governors and Heads

Can Governors afford to delay tacking this type of issue?   For many, their motivation would be to produce better learning outcomes. If that is not sufficient then maybe the following will be encouragement to act:

  • Governing Bodies have a legal duty to monitor working hours and to take action if those are unreasonable – see more at Teachers’ Working Hours – Duties of Governors and Head Teachers, 
  • If undue stress is caused to a teacher, that could lead to an expensive unfair dismissal case for the school.  Recently, the compensation rates for injury to feelings, have been increased.  Those are additional to the dismissal award and could add up to £42,000 or more to a claim.  More detail can be seen in the Key HR Facts section of our Personnel Advice website.

Governors and Head Teachers can minimise the chances of finding themselves a party to an expensive personal injury claim for stress or an unfair dismissal claim for undue pressure on a teacher.  How?  Take the positive outcomes road as noted above.

The DfE is also partly serious about the workload and amount of working hours.  It has added advice in the latest Governors’ Handbook and Ofsted has also updated its guidance in order to minimise additional work caused to schools.

[1]  Teacher Workload Survey 2016, Research brief, DfE, February 2017.
[2]  Tips to help schools reduce teacher workload by Ruth Stokes, 19 July 2017, The Guardian, Teachers Network.

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