Ministers must make teaching more "intellectually attractive" to stop long classroom hours driving people away from the profession, according to the official behind the world’s most influential education rankings.
Andreas Schleicher, who runs the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), made his comments after new figures revealed that teachers in England and Scotland spend a significantly larger proportion of their working time in front of pupils than most other developed countries.
"Teaching load is really high in England – this is a big chunk of teachers work and it means they have less time for other things than teaching, such as professional development and lesson planning," Mr Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said.
His comments came as the Association of School and College Leaders warned that teacher shortages in England were "so severe" that it was having a direct impact on the performance of GCSE students.
Mr Schleicher stressed that while pay was important for teacher recruitment and retention, tackling the balance between teaching and other activities was also key.
Asked by TES whether the type of workload experienced by teachers in England could be contributing to staff shortages, Mr Schleicher said: "I think countries need to worry more about making teaching intellectually attractive rather than just financially attractive. "Finland is a good example. Teaching is the second most prestigious occupation. That is not because they get great salaries – the salaries are comparable to the salaries in England – but they have a lot more opportunities to grow in their profession, more career opportunities, more career differentiation.
"Those things are not less important than money in making teaching more attractive."
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said: "It would undoubtedly be better if you had a lighter timetable and more time to reflect, so you don’t get exhausted, spend the holidays being ill, then recover just in time to go back to school."
This is an [edited] article from the 23 September edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here