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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Impact of Teacher Workload

'Primary state school teachers in England are working almost 60 hours a week, according to a survey by the Department for Education – a sharp increase on the previous survey. The snapshot of their workload is a grim portrait of a profession plagued by long hours and "unnecessary and bureaucratic tasks", according to the survey. Many of the 1,000 respondents cited preparations for Ofsted visits as well as form-filling and other paperwork as causing a burden outside the classroom.'
A quote taken from a recent article in The Guardian. 
Although this is a worrying statistic I don't think teachers will be surprised by it, teaching is a full on, full time job. In a previous blog post I referred  to it as 'teaching the 24/7 profession'. Whilst this was a very light hearted post about how teachers never switch off and are 'teachers' all of the time even when out shopping, It was really my way of trying to see the positives in teaching. However there is clearly a dark side to the fact that teachers never switch off.

It is one thing to be SO committed to your job and to choose to spend your free time trailing around car boot sales for wet play games or building volcanoes at home for a science lesson. But it is quite another when the workload means working in the evenings and at weekends just to stay afloat.

I have been teaching for 16 years and teachers workload has always been a big one but it has definitely got worse over the last few years and has not been helped by the changes since the coalition government came into power. Below are some of the changes taken from (Education in England - the history of our schools website) 
2010 Academies Act 2010 provided for massive and rapid expansion of academies.
2010 Budget cuts: government proposed cuts of up to £3.5bn in the schools budget.
2010 Independent review of the primary curriculum proposals: scrapped.
2010 Diplomas: Labour's flagship policy scrapped.
2010 Building Schools for the Future: scrapped.
2010 Higher education: fewer places and vastly increased tuition fees, the latter despite Liberal Democrat pre-election promises.
2010 White paper The Importance of Teaching  : wide-ranging document covering teaching, leadership, behaviour, new schools, accountability etc.
2011 Education Act 2011  increased schools' powers relating to pupil behaviour and exclusions, further diminished the role of local authorities, further expansion of academies etc.
2011 Tickell Report The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning  made recommendations relating to the Early Years Foundation Stage.
2011 Bew Report Independent Review of Key Stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability: recommended that published test results should be more comprehensive and seen as a part of a bigger picture. 
2011 DfE The Framework for the National Curriculum : a report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum review. 
2011 HCEC Report Behaviour and Discipline in Schools : a report by the House of Commons Education Committee.
2011 Green Paper Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability
2012 HCEC Report Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best: a report by the House of Commons Education Committee.
2012 White Paper Reform of provision for children and young people with Special Educational Needs 
2012 Statutory Framework for the EYFS: Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five.
2012 2013 EYFS Profile Handbook published by the Standards and Testing Agency.
2013 The framework for school inspection published by Ofsted.
2013 School inspection handbook published by Ofsted.
2013 Subsidiary guidance: Supporting the inspection of maintained schools and academies published by Ofsted.
Of course amongst all of the Reviews, Reforms, Frameworks, Guidance and Handbooks are the pupils, young adult, parents, teachers and teaching assistants. Most of whom are bearing the brunt of changes and are yet rarely consulted. 

Curriculum reforms, the removal of statutory protections to limit classroom observations and ever-increasing workload with insufficient protections means teachers feel increasingly under attack. Pensions, the pay freeze, job cuts arising from funding cuts and  and threats to national terms and conditions arising from the privatisation of schools all result in huge amounts of stress.

Whilst my job is my vocation I still work to live not live to work and would quite like to have the right work/life balance. So how can this be achieved? Here are a couple of my thoughts:

Less lesson observations - I really do not see what they inform. Pupils results, team teaching and book scrutiny are less invasive and reveal what is actually going on in classrooms.
Realistic targets - for pupils, teachers and schools. Targets are an inevitable part of our job but unattainable, unrealistic targets increase stress and workloads. 
Smaller classes - class sizes impact upon everything from noise levels to excessive marking. 
Get rid of Ofsted! The constant changes to inspections and the mixed messages about school and lesson headings are damaging. 
The list could go on ....... What would you add?