High Workload: Why It's Such A Problem In Teaching

As a teacher, you are more than likely very familiar with people commenting on what a great deal you’ve got in terms of holidays and the length of your working day. You’re probably also familiar with people being very negative about that, stating that you wouldn’t cope with a ‘proper job’ in the ‘real world’ and are lazy, have it cushy and have an extremely easy time of it.

Aside from telling them there’s nothing stopping them from training as a teacher and getting the same good deal for themselves, and also to go and boil their heads, you are probably likely to respond with the fact that you don’t have a good deal at all. Because you don’t.

The holidays are merely times when you are not required to be in front of a class teaching: you are still required to work. I think at most teachers take 4 weeks completely off a year, the same as any other job, only you have to take them at set times during the year and can never book leave. That’s the opposite of a good deal.

In terms of working day length and hours, most teachers will work in excess of 50 hours a week, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out you can’t do that if you finish at 3pm every day. There is a lot of hate directed at teachers, and most of it comes in the form of telling you your workload is low when it is in fact through the roof.

In order to reduce workload, I think the following things need to happen:

  • Stricter, more enforceable legislation on the protection of PPA time
  • Stricter, more enforceable legislation on teachers performing teaching and learning duties only
  • Reduction and legislative limiting of the amount of paperwork required from teachers
  • Slow down of rate of reforms and new initiatives

I mentioned in my post about low staff morale (Low Staff Morale: Why It's Such A Problem In Teaching) that, 

Although the reverse is true, some people may believe that pushing people to the limit increases productivity by simply squeezing more out of them… In reality, it’s a proven fact that pushing people this hard… reduces performance and productivity. It only allows those who put work before anything else to succeed, meaning students are deprived of contact with well rounded, family orientated people who are active in the community.”

And this, in essence, is the whole issue. School managers consider high workload to be a good thing because they believe it gives them value for money, by employing less staff than is required to get that amount of work done. In actual fact they are probably right as well.

In business, pushing people to the limit reduces productivity which reduces profit, and therefore is not a cheaper option. But in the public sector, pushing people to the limit reduces productivity which reduces standards: it has absolutely no effect on finances, and therefore is a cheaper option. It does, as I said, reduce standards though, which is perhaps why there is currently such a hateful witch hunt to turf out all the bad teachers.

As schools reduce their reliance on public funding, through academies and free schools, will that mean eventually teachers will have to be allowed a good work life balance in order to boost the school’s finances? Will payment on performance link money to standards enough so that work life balance is improved? Actually, I’m hopeful.

The fact remains though that excessive workload is a major barrier to raising standards, and is one of the most common reasons cited for teachers becoming ill or leaving the profession.


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