One in four teachers work more than 60 hours a week

Katy Morton
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A new study finds that some teachers in England are working more than 60 hours a week, including the time spent marking and planning during weekends and evenings.

The University College London (UCL) study, published today and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, claims to be the first research to look at data from more than 40,000 primary and secondary teachers in England collected between 1992 and 2017.

The research is based on analysis of the Labour Force Survey, the Teaching and Learning International Survey, the UK Time-Use diaries and information gathered from the Teacher-Tapp survey app.

The findings show that teachers work around 47 hours per week on average during term-time. This includes the time they spend on marking, lesson planning and administration. However, 25 per cent of teachers reported working more than 60 hours a week.

In the summer term, teachers' average working week is nearer to 50 hours.

Compared to teachers in similiar industralised OECD countries, teachers in England work on average eight hours more a week. For example, in 2018 the average full-time secondary teacher in England worked 49 hours per week compared to the OECD average of 41 hours, says the research. Teachers in Finland worked on average just 34 hours per week.

The UCL study also reveals that around 40 per cent of teachers in England usually work in the evening and 10 per cent of them at the weekend.

The research goes on to argue that current methods used by the Government to collect data and working hours are not as reliable as they could be and need to be reformed.

The research forms part of a larger UCL study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, into the health of teachers over the last 25 years.

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Lead author Professor John Jerrim from UCL Institute of Education, said, ‘Successive secretaries of state for education have made big commitments to teachers about their working hours – how they are determined to reduce the burden of unnecessary tasks and how they will monitor hours robustly.

‘Our data show just how difficult it is to reduce teacher workload and working hours. It is early days in terms of judging the effectiveness of the policies put forward over the past year. We’d like to see much closer monitoring of teachers’ working hours, so that the impact of policy can be assessed as soon as possible.

‘Overall, bolder plans are needed by the Government to show they are serious about reducing working hours for teachers and bringing them into line with other countries.’

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation, added, 'Earlier this year the Government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy acknowledged the teacher supply crisis in England. This research adds to our understanding of this crisis by confirming that teachers are working persistently long hours.

‘As previous Nuffield-funded work has shown, addressing teachers’ working hours is key to the improvement of both teaching quality and supply.’

The school leaders’ union NAHT said that the research shows ‘conclusively’ that successive education ministers have ‘absolutely failed’ to improve teachers and school leaders’ workload and work-life balance.

General secretary Paul Whiteman said, ‘Looking at the figures, it is no wonder that teacher retention rates have declined every year for a decade, leaving the UK with one of the least experienced workforces in the world. Only two thirds of the teachers who qualified in 2013 are still in service after five years. The current levels of workload in teaching are totally unsustainable.

‘These figures must serve as a blunt warning for the Government.'

The National Education Union accused the Government of doing a ‘far better job of driving people out of teaching than retaining them’.

Joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said, ‘60-hour working weeks are completely unacceptable, and it is one of the key reasons why one third of newly qualified teachers leave within five years.

‘Government must face the fact that it is the culture of excessive accountability, brought on by the Department for Education and Ofsted, which acts as the main driver of workload. Nor is it fair on children that teachers are so exhausted outside of contact-time with paperwork that so rarely benefits pupils.’

Government response

‘As today’s report shows, the number of hours teachers work has remained broadly unchanged over the last 25 years. We have, however, been making concerted efforts to reduce workload driven by unnecessary tasks – 94 per cent of surveyed school leaders report they have taken action to reduce workload related to marking and more than three-quarters say they have addressed planning workload.

‘And we will continue our work with the sector to drive down on these burdensome tasks outside the classroom so that teachers are free to do what they do best - teach.

‘Salaries for new teachers are also set to rise to £30,000 by 2022-23 and, this year, teachers and heads can receive a pay rise of 2.75 per cent - above current rates of inflation. We have also launched the Early Career Framework to ensure newly qualified teachers are provided with early career support and development, including mentoring.’

  • The study, 'New evidence on teacher workload in England. An empirical analysis of four datasets', is available to read here

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