'This level of workload expected of teachers is not improving schools but it is wrecking lives'
Teachers are reaching a point when this level of work commitment is becoming corrosive to our system says one leading educationist
While talking to a colleague this week, he stated that he thought education was in for a seminal year. He was echoing the thousands of teachers up and down the country when he said he was unable to keep up with the demands expected of him.
He still loved the involvement with the pupils but that was now largely lost in "the rest".
Workload has, despite all the rhetoric form the government – in fact we all know it has – become worse.
A recent survey of 4,000 teachers supported this view. Some 82 per cent of those interviewed said the workload expected of them was unmanageable. A recent EPI report found teachers in England work longer hours than peers in most other countries, with a fifth of teachers in England working 60 hours or more a week. Can't we see that this is just unsustainable.
The effect on teacher wellbeing is there for us all to see, and 73 per cent of those interviewed said their health had been affected. Whatever happened to this search for a work life balance?
The recent "Fair Workload Charter", suggested by the Nottingham Education Improvement Board, suggested teachers should do no more than two hours more than directed time and leaders no more than three. They also suggested high quality schemes of work were provided so we could stop the hours spent on pointless planning. In addition to these very sensible ideas was the suggestion of clear policies on what student work should and shouldn't be marked. I know in the secondary schools I visit, they would particularly agree with this.
Lastly, there should in every establishment be an annual review of workload policies and practises.
The problem with very laudable ideas like these is that they don't seem to get off the ground. Everyone is now so consumed by accountability that we have forgotten all this planning and marking should actually be of benefit to the child. We have teachers who think if they don't mark for three hours a night they are not doing a good job.
This has got to stop.
Teachers are reaching or perhaps have reached a point where this level of work commitment is becoming corrosive to our system. Children do not benefit from overworked teachers. This level of work is not improving schools but it is wrecking lives.
This year this level of work has failed once again to result in a pay rise commensurate to the workload. The 1 per cent rise will make teachers feel unvalued. They also know that they remain without a voice.
The next year will also see the recruitment crisis worsen. Why? Well, graduates will see the pay and the conditions of service and find alternative employment.
The next year will also see schools having to continue with a worthless testing regime. It will also see even more cuts which will affect all areas of education.
So here we are starting that seminal year: perhaps it will be the year when the small cracks in the system widen to create that earthquake we can all see coming.
What good will that do our pupils?
Colin Harris is a former primary head and is now supporting teachers and headteachers
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