UK teachers longest hours!

Head teachers on a demonstration in London demanding more funding for schools
Head teachers on a demonstration in London demanding more funding for schools

TEACHERS in the UK work ‘some of the longest hours in the world’ a study of 35 countries in the world has found, with British teachers working a 51-hour a week, the fourth longest.

This is according to a major new global survey called the Global Teacher Status Index.

Teachers in the UK who took part in the Global Teacher Status Index said they were working 50.9 hours a week – longer than anywhere else in the 35-country study apart from New Zealand, Singapore and Chile.

The poll also reveals that the British public underestimates how long UK teachers work.

When the British public was polled, they estimated the number of hours teachers work at 45.9 hours a week, almost a whole school day less per week. And the index reveals that the British public overestimates how much teachers earn at the start of their career and that they feel new teachers should get a pay rise of around £7,500.

The Global Teaching Status Index (GTSI) aims to provide detailed information of how society views teachers across the 35 countries. In all but six countries of the 35 countries polled in 2018, the general public underestimates – often considerably – the number of hours teachers work per week.

The public was asked: ‘On average, how many hours do you think full-time primary and secondary school teachers work a week in term time (including work outside school such as marking and planning lessons)?’

Latin Americans underestimate teachers’ working hours more than any other, particularly in Peru (by 13 hours), Argentina (by 12.5 hours) and Panama (11.4 hours).

In both the UK and the US, the public underestimated teachers’ working hours by around five hours per week.

Teachers are demanding workload needs to be a major focus for the UK government.

This week the Department for Education has promised to help schools simplify the way teachers log incidents of poor behaviour as part of renewed offers to cut workload.

The move comes as the DfE published a report by the Workload Advisory Group, which says that teachers can suffer from anxiety and burnout because of an increasing expectation on schools to use detailed pupil data. The report calls for schools to not have more than two or three attainment data collection points a year.

Education secretary Damian Hinds has written a joint letter with Ofsted and other organisations to school leaders to repeat his commitment to tackling teacher workload.

Commenting on the GTSI findings Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘Teachers work a lot harder than people realise. And they do it because they are committed public servants.

‘The societies which value their teachers highest are the ones atop the international league tables. ‘On a good day, teaching is one of the most rewarding careers imaginable. The trouble is, there just aren’t enough good days.

‘For many teachers and school leaders, the enormous privilege of helping young people learn and grow can be outweighed by the pressure and workload of the profession they’ve chosen.

‘Not only do teachers in this country work longer hours than their peers around the world, they have also been forced to accept years of real-terms pay cuts.

‘Teachers’ average hourly pay has fallen by 15 per cent over the last decade. ‘And they are working under the pressure of an ever more punitive accountability system where one bad year of test results can destroy a career.’

Meanwhile, the National Education Union’s 2018 independent sector pay and conditions survey has revealed that pay in private schools is failing to keep pace with inflation, and that staff continue to experience high levels of workload, much of it unpaid.

This September, just 1% of independent sector teacher respondents stated that they received a cost of living increase that matched, or bettered, the 3.5% state-maintained teacher award recommended by the School Teachers’ Review Body.

Worse still, 21% independent sector teachers and 15% of support staff reported that they received no cost-of-living increase whatsoever. The 2018 NEU survey records that the most common pay award in the sector was in the range of 1.1% to 2%, with 34% of teacher respondents and 38% of support staff receiving this amount.

This award fails to keep pace with the rate of inflation, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), which stood at 3.3% for the year to September 2018, meaning a cut to living standards in real terms. There is growing concern among NEU members working in the sector about the decline in their living standards, as the result of the accumulative effect of pay increases below the rate of inflation, year after year.

If an employee had received a 1% cost-of-living award every year since 2010, they would have had the equivalent of a 14.1% pay cut in real terms, when adjusted for RPI. Even a higher annual award of 2% would be the equivalent of a 7.1% pay cut in real terms over the same period, when adjusted for RPI.

While pay fails to keep pace with inflation, workload is still on the rise. 68% of teachers said that it had increased since last year. Almost two-thirds (65%) of teacher respondents stated that they worked three or more evenings every week during term time.

41% of independent sector teachers who responded to the 2018 NEU survey reported working every weekend, and a further 30% of teachers said that they ‘regularly’ worked at weekends. 83% put this down to workload, with 61% saying that this weekend work was either ‘expected’ or ‘demanded’ of them.

A teacher in Scotland summed up this common experience: ‘I regularly work 7.30am to 6.30pm at school, plus an hour at home three evenings a week and every weekend.’ And a proper lunch break to recuperate is becoming less and less prevalent.

Fewer than half of all teachers (47%) and support staff (49%) reported that they enjoyed a lunch break of more than the statutory minimum of 20 minutes. As one teacher said: ‘… no place to relax at lunchtime, expected to eat in the canteen with the children, meaning no brain break.’

Many support staff have suffered a double-whammy, with an increasing trend amongst employers towards paying them only during term-time, while at the same time expected to work unpaid hours.

A whopping 39% of support staff respondents to the 2018 NEU survey reported that they were paid for working term-time only. While expecting support staff to work unpaid overtime, more than two-thirds of respondents (70%) said that the demands of the job required them to regularly work extra hours, with 63% of all respondents doing so without any remuneration.

A teaching assistant in the East Midlands, commented on the inequity of her working hours: ‘If we work fewer hours, we are enforced to make it up. If we work over, it isn’t rewarded in equal measure.’

Commenting on the survey results, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘Staff morale is being damaged by below-inflation salary increases and burgeoning workloads.

‘Employers need to refocus on their biggest asset: their hard-working staff. They can do this in two ways. First, by carrying out a workload audit of all staff to ensure manageable workloads, adequate rest periods and appropriate recompense. Second, pay should be increased, as a bare minimum, in line with RPI.’