Primary school teachers are working fewer hours, but many continue to feel burdened by paperwork, according to new Government research.
The 2019 Teacher Workload Survey is a large-scale survey of more than 7,000 teachers from 404 schools across the UK. They were asked for feedback about workload and work-life balance over a three-week period in March.
- Burdensome paperwork leads to duplication and inconsistency
- Supporting the well-being of our early years professionals
While primary teachers were reportedly working an average of 55.5 hours a week in 2016, this has now dropped to 50 hours a week. The number of out-of-school hours spent working have also decreased, with primary teachers working an average of 12.5 hours during weekends, evenings and other out-of-school hours, compared to 17.5 hours in 2016.
Teachers reportedly spend fewer hours on planning and preparing lessons, marking work and pupil tuition, but most said they still felt they spent excessive amounts of time on planning, marking and data management.
Teachers continue to feel they are unable to finish their work within contracted hours, with 70 per cent of primary teachers stating they ‘strongly disagreed’ with the statement ‘I can complete my assigned workload during contracted hours’.
Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, said: ‘For too long, teachers have been working too many hours on time-consuming admin tasks that simply don’t add value in the classroom.
‘But the findings in today’s report give me real optimism that, working with the profession, we are making a real difference, driving down the number of hours teachers work on these burdensome and unnecessary tasks.
‘However, I am not complacent, and it’s clear from meeting many teachers across the country that we have more to do.’
Speaking about the results of the survey, Cassie Buchanan, headteacher of Charles Dickens Primary School and Nursery, said: ‘The survey outcomes are a positive shift in the right direction and reflect the strong commitment and actions by heads and school leaders.
‘At Charles Dickens Primary we no longer give children extensive written feedback. Instead, we spend time identifying what children do not know and planning lessons to address this. We have also reduced data collection so that teachers have more time to adapt lessons for the children in their class and professional learning.’
Concerns about the impact of new Ofsted inspection framework
Despite a positive trend emerging in the survey results, many remain concerned about the impact of the new Ofsted inspection framework on teacher workload.
The framework was introduced in September 2019 and while Ofsted says there is a greater emphasis on classroom observation, rather than data driven information, teachers are anxious about the changes.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘Whilst any reduction of teacher working hours is to be welcomed, it is premature of Government to claim they are winning the war on workload.
‘It is good that teachers are spending less time on marking and planning, but the numbers for time spent on data collection are still stubbornly high and reflect the toxic accountability system which is the main driver of teachers leaving the profession earlier and earlier in their careers. Ofsted’s new inspection framework is creating rising workload again.
‘Given this reality, teachers will view the government’s figures with incredulity.’
She cited a study conducted by University College London (UCL) last month, which showed a quarter of teachers reported working a 60-hour week, a figure that is far higher than the Government average reported in 2016 and 2019.
The data, which looked at more than 40,000 primary and secondary teachers between 1992 and 2017, also found that 40 per cent of teachers in England work in the evening.
Commenting on the UCL study, Ms Bousted said: ‘This is completely unacceptable. That study also cast doubt on whether the most recent DfE workload surveys were accurate. If they were not, the reduction shown by this survey may be over-estimated. That would certainly be more consistent with what our members are telling us.’