Teachers' 'unmanageable workloads' impacting on children

Friday, November 20, 2015

Teachers are being ‘ground down’ by 'unmanageable workloads', preventing them from concentrating on tasks that benefit pupils, a survey of teachers says.

Of the 2,293 teaching staff that responded to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ (ATL) survey, 182 of which work in state-funded nurseries, 81 per cent of teachers and 54 per cent of support staff said their workload was unmanageable.

A number of respondents admitted to working late at night to get on top of things, while four in five (82 per cent) said they have considered leaving teaching as a result of their workload, of these 134 are early years staff.

One primary teacher at a school in Staffordshire said, ‘Most school nights I work until 10.30 or 11pm, just to keep on top of marking.'

Another, a newly qualified teacher at a primary school in Cumbria, said, ‘I bounce into school every morning excited about the day ahead. But at 10pm when I am still marking, that excitement is difficult to muster. I appreciate that people in many other professions work long hours, and I am grateful I do a job I enjoy, but I just can’t see how I can maintain this work rate.’

When asked what would make most difference to their workload, teaching staff cited fewer meetings, cutting down on admin such as photocopying, being able to choose how often to mark work, having fewer changes to the curriculum, and a more reliable inspection system in place.

Findings from the survey also reveal that teachers and support staff feel that they are able to spend less time carrying out tasks that would benefit children because of unnecessary work required of them.

Attending meetings, collecting evidence for performance management and data entry and analysis, were identified as tasks heads want them to do, but which they feel are not always necessary as they have little benefit to pupils.

Instead, respondents said they would like to spend more time collaborating with colleagues or other professionals to improve their teaching and talking one-to-one with pupils, or their parents.

The ATL has launched a new campaign, It's About Time, to raise awareness of the impact of workload on all education staff, identify which tasks are most problematic and help find practical solutions.

Teaching and support staff can use the ATL’s Workload Tracker to plot what tasks they spend most time doing and how they could do things differently.

As part of the campaign, the union will use information and examples from teaching and support staff to try and encourage Government to think about the impact of education policies on workload and try to reduce the burden on staff.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said, ‘A year on from the Government’s Workload Challenge and it seems little has improved for school staff. 

‘Teachers, support staff and school managers expect they will have to work hard and a heavy workload and stress are nothing new.  But the current situation is hugely damaging and unsustainable.  The workload is damaging teachers’ health, making many want to leave the profession and they are often exhausted in class.

‘The Government needs to acknowledge it is responsible for much of the current workload because staff have to keep re-planning what they are doing to keep up with changes to the curriculum. The cruel irony is much of the work school staff are doing is not making them better teachers or improving children’s education – it is photocopying, preparing resources and data analysis. 

'If teachers could free up their time they would be able to spend more time doing things that make most difference to children’s learning such as actually talking to their pupils and their parents, working with other colleagues and learning from other colleagues’ teaching practice.’

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