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37% - Percentage of schools that agreed to participate in this year's diary survey

How many hours do teachers actually work? The letter in The TES from a deputy head (Letters, September 25) wanting to work in one of the schools in the recent Workloads Diary Survey, as she thought it under-represented the hours deputy heads worked, set me on a quest to discover more about how that survey was conducted.

These surveys for the DCSF feed into the Schoolteachers' Pay Review Body, and are based on a diary of a "typical" week. The first was conducted in 1996, and they have been annual since 2003. The first survey had an 80 per cent response among schools, and an 83 per cent response from teachers. However, the 2009 survey only had a 72 per cent response from teachers and a 37 per cent rate from schools. It took requests to 460 schools to secure the necessary coverage of different types of schools, resulting in 96 primary, 58 secondary and 15 special schools participating.

No doubt, in many schools, the head acted as a gatekeeper and refused to participate. The fact that it took requests to 260 secondary schools to achieve the required responses from the 58 schools speaks volumes about whole-school research in the secondary sector.

Finding accurate information about the curious form of employer-directed flexi-time worked by teachers is important, and I would urge teachers to participate in future surveys. They might ask whether their heads should act as gatekeepers or whether there should be a more democratic policy, perhaps decided by a staffroom vote?

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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