Teachers workload, brain drain, and burn outs have all been headlines in the media recently, but is the workload really as bad as they are making it out to be? I’ve read up on the topic and present my take on it within this post.
Here are some facts from Teacher Toolkit (2016) about teachers workload:
1. No matter what you say, do or refine, teaching by default is exhausting
2. Without a change in how teachers are timetabled, everything designed to improve teaching is rhetoric
3. On the basis of 40-55 hours per week, 38 weeks of the academic year, the current shelf-life of a teacher is just 5 years
The above points lead Teacher Toolkit (2016) to note that it is no wonder teachers are running on empty batteries and thinking of fleeing the profession.
Further Education Workloads
It is no secret that teachers face significant pressures within their roles, however a report published in May 2015 showed that working specifically within Further Education has become increasingly stressful (Hunt, 2015). With a survey carried out on 2,250 further education staff in 2008 discovered that 74% agreed with the statement “I find my job stressful”, whereas in 2015 this figure has now increased to 87%. Change within the workplace was a key factor affecting stress levels, with workloads and job demands ranking second highest. The survey also discovered that only one in ten respondents reported high satisfaction within their role.
Broad Education Workloads
According research conducted in March 2016 by NASUWT teaching union, which was shared with Wiggins (2016), majority of teachers are thinking of quitting, as the profession is being ground down by crushing workloads. 13,000 teachers were surveyed with the figures as high as 74%, almost three quarters, of teachers stressing that they had thought about leaving the profession in the last 12 months (Wiggins, 2016). The five biggest issues chose by NASUWT respondents were workload; 90%, changes to the curriculum and qualifications; 50%, behaviour; 44%, pay; 40% and school inspections; 36%. The fact that 90% of teachers see their workload as an issue is astonishing, and rather worrying. If also shows that there is definitely something required to ensure that current employees are retained, and potential new teachers are not discouraged from entering.
Department for Education Strategy
The Department for Education (Dfe) published a report in 2015 entitled ‘Government response to the Workload Challenge’, whereby they introduced an action plan, see below. Two of the sections of this action plan refer to help for teachers; section 4 – Support for school leaders, and section 5 – a better evidence base for teachers. Teacher Toolkit (2016) noted how during 15 years in school leadership they had never experienced any coaching or mentoring, it had just been left to the headteacher. Therefore introducing school leadership could be a promising move for education, in alleviating workload for teachers and enhancing organisation within institutions. The Dfe have stated that they will continue to monitor teacher workloads over the coming years and will release another report in February 2017, so I guess we will have to wait and see whether or not these points are effective.
When I attended my interview at Sheffield Hallam University, I raised the issue of teachers workloads when I was asked to discuss a current educational matter. I explained to my interviewers that I was fully aware the role does not end when the teaching day does, as there are a lot of activities outside of teaching hours which need completing. Such as marking, lesson planning, preparing for Ofsted inspections, taking students on visits and so on. My interviewers were very upfront with me and were asking me if I was prepared for the workload which I would face, I don’t think they were trying to put me off from entering the profession, as after all, there is a teaching crisis and the sector can’t afford to turn down potential teachers, but I think they just wanted to make sure that I was aware of what I was getting myself into. I stressed that I knew a PGCE is meant to be the hardest year of your life, and that I knew I would be committing a lot of time to the role during my PGCE and beyond when I enter into a teaching role. It was rather nice having this discussion, and the interviewer said to me that I was clearly committed and ready.
After researching the issue of teachers workloads it has become apparent to me that the workload is a key issue within education, and staff are being affected mentally and physically as a result, which is demoralizing to witness, knowing that the issue is causing so many talented professionals to leave their roles. I think it is really important for teachers to understand what they are getting themselves in for at the beginning, as after all this role isn’t a 9-5 role. But also I think more support is needed for all teachers and academics to allow them to combat workloads and to ensure they maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Department for Education. (2015) Government response to the Workload Challenge. [Online] U.K: Department for Education. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/415874/Government_Response_to_the_Workload_Challenge.pdf
Hunt, S. (2015) Colleges must respond to improve the worsening levels of stress among staff. [Online] Available from: https://www.tes.com/news/further-education/breaking-views/colleges-must-respond-improve-worsening-levels-stress-among
Teacher Toolkit. (2016) A better workload for teachers by @TeacherToolkit. [Online] Available from: http://www.teachertoolkit.me/2015/05/26/a-better-workload-for-teachers-by-teachertoolkit/?utm_content=buffera2c3a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Wiggins, K. (2016) Majority of teachers ‘thinking of quitting’ – The profession is being ground down by ‘crushing’ workload, research shows. Times Education Supplment (TES), No. 5191: Friday 1st April 2016.