‘Clever’ teachers don’t work long hours, says former government adviser

Teacher training should put the emphasis on workload management, says Sir Andrew Carter, adding that staff who ‘brag’ about long hours are not setting a good example to trainees

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“Clever” teachers who work smartly do not need to put in excessively long hours, a former government adviser has said.

Trainees should be told that working 12 to 13 hours a day is “unreasonable” and schools should “get smart” with planning initiatives said Sir Andrew Carter, chief executive of the South Farnham Educational Trust.

Work-life balance should be an integral part of teacher training – especially in light of retention problems, he said.

Sir Andrew, who chaired a government-commissioned review of initial teacher training, said he’d heard teachers talk about starting work at 5am, or working until midnight, in front of trainees.

Speaking at the Girls’ School Association (GSA) annual conference, he said: “There are trainees wishing to join our profession listening to these mad people talking about and bragging about work.

"Clever people don't need to work that long... We pulled children out of the mines once. We must take teachers out of the same mines that we put the children into.

“What I am not saying is that we should have a situation where we have people not working. We should work hard, but we need to be smart.

"The challenge always is that we believe that if we are busy we must be doing it better," he added. 

Sir Andrew said workload should feature high up on teacher training as he said it was a key reason for teachers quitting. 

“I just think that sometimes in schools you do have to look very carefully [at workload] because it is the biggest factor - it is bigger than behaviour - of why people leave.

“I do think this problem should be in teacher training”, he said.

Speaking to TES after his speech, he said schools had a big role to play too: “If a school is expecting teachers to work 12 to 13 hours a day, and in the evenings and at the weekends, that is unreasonable, and they will go. You have got to get smart in your planning."

Sir Andrew added: “There are some things that teachers are doing that schools should be doing. It is the legitimate job of the school and the leadership to organise the planning, the structures, and the school trips.

“A teacher needs to decide where they are going and why. But all the detail - there should be people in the school who deal with that. Schools know that but they often leave it to the teachers to do it.”

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