On average, teachers were working some 48 hours a week. This is impacting on the profession in terms of stress-related illnesses and absenteeism.
To what extent is workload becoming a serious concern for teachers, and what impacts do workload concerns have for educationalists?
An October 2016 report observed that UK secondary teacher workload was the third highest worldwide, and that, on average, teachers were working some 48 hours a week. This is impacting on the profession in terms of stress-related illnesses and absenteeism, in the reporting of ongoing mental health issues among educators, and is frequently cited as a reason for the profession being deserted by skilled professionals (Sellen, 2016). That the issue of workload is of concern is evident through multiple campaigns led by teaching trades unions, and to initiatives such as the Fair Workload Charter – which seeks to limit additional out of class working to two hours a day – being introduced in Nottingham (Teach Nottingham, 2016). However, the scheme is voluntary, and offers guidelines to work towards rather than being part of contractual working conditions for teachers (Niemtus, 2016).
Both the Nottingham charter and the 2016 education Policy Institute report into teacher workload make similar recommendations; that there are challenges to be met in streamlining teacher working practices, so that ineffective or time-consuming practices (such as hand-writing feedback, the collating of formative assessments, or the use of detailed lesson plans) ought to be replaced by speedier and more effective alternatives (Sellen, 2016). However, in order to successfully propagate this across UK teaching, there is a wholescale training requirement, and the unpicking of embedded and at times old-fashioned working practices. The challenge is not merely to fully embrace ICT in planning, preparation, assessment and grading, but to streamline the entire workflow of front-line education, while simultaneously training and retaining existing and new entrants into education. This, though, needs to be done in ways which do not jeopardise the quality and effectiveness of classroom teaching (Department of Education, 2016).
Department for Education (2016) Reducing teachers’ workload. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teachers-workload/reducing-teachers-workload (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Niemtus, Z. (2016) Is this the solution to the teacher workload crisis? Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/sep/16/is-this-the-solution-to-the-teacher-workload-crisis (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Sellen, P. (2016) Teacher workload in secondary schools. Available at: http://epi.org.uk/report/teacherworkload/ (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Teach Nottingham (2016) Fair Workload Charter. Available at: http://www.nottinghamschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/53683_EIB-FAIR-WORKLOAD-CHARTER-2PP_6.pdf (Accessed: 12 October 2016).