'Give teachers autonomy and fix the recruitment crisis'

Teachers’ dissatisfaction with amount of leisure time remains higher than in other professions, report warns

Amy Gibbons

Teacher in classroom

Increasing teacher autonomy could boost job satisfaction and improve retention, a new report suggests.

While teachers have a "relatively high level of influence" over many aspects of their work, their self-reported autonomy is lower than among similar professionals, according to analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

And teachers’ are more dissatisfied with their level of leisure time than other workers, the report states.


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The NFER's Teacher Labour Market in England Annual Report 2020, based on data collected prior to the Covid-19 crisis, states that teachers work longer term-time hours than other professionals in a typical week, which can compromise their ability to achieve a good work-life balance.

It adds that their level of autonomy affects how workload feels.

"Workload is often conceptualised simply as the number of hours teachers work, but the DfE recruitment and retention strategy states that '[workload] is also about teachers feeling in control of their work'", it says.

"NFER’s recent research on teachers' sense of professional autonomy shows that autonomy is a key part of the relationship between unmanageable workload, job satisfaction and retention."

The report adds: "UKHLS [UK Household Longitudinal Study] data up to 2016-17 shows that while teachers have a relatively high level of influence over the pace at which they work, how they do their work, what tasks they do and the order in which they carry out tasks, their self-reported autonomy is lower than among similar professionals.

"Next year’s UKHLS data release will show whether teacher autonomy has changed between 2016-17 and 2018-19."

The report argues that increasing teachers' level of autonomy "could lead to more teachers finding their workload manageable, increased job satisfaction and improved retention".

Jack Worth, school workforce lead at NFER, said: "Teachers and school leaders across the country have shown enormous dedication to their work during the coronavirus crisis, which is why we need to ensure that the long-term challenge of teacher supply is not forgotten.

"Ensuring teachers’ workload is manageable during school closures and as schools begin to open more fully, and safeguarding their safety, health and wellbeing, is key to supporting current teachers through the crisis."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The unprecedented circumstances of the past few months have shone a light on the life-changing role that teachers play in children's lives.

"We want to ensure they are rewarded appropriately and have set out proposals to increase starting salaries to £30,000 by 2022-23, alongside above-inflation increases to pay ranges for more experienced teachers and school leaders.

"We are also rolling out our Early Career Framework, which will deliver a two-year support package for new teachers, providing them with early career support and development including mentoring."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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