Happy in the job, despite the hours

A TES teacher poll paints a surprising picture of general well-being, with workload the only real bugbear of the profession, Biddy Passmore reports. Sue Learner talks to teachers around the country

It is not such a bad life being a teacher. But it would be a great deal better - and far more would stay in the profession - if the Government lightened their workload.

Those are the two main lessons to be drawn from a new TES survey of teachers' lives. It found seven out of 10 teachers were satisfied with their jobs. More suprisingly, it revealed that eight out of 10 felt comfortably or well off.

But the poll of 500 state and independent school teachers in England and Wales, conducted by FDS International early last month, also found that only three in five expect to be still teaching in five years' time.

More than a third of all teachers surveyed expect to have given up within five years.

And of those who want to quit, workload is by far the biggest reason, weighing most heavily with teachers in their 30s.

Teachers are emphatically against the notion that classroom assistants could take charge of lessons. An overwhelming 80 per cent oppose the idea.

The poll paints a picture of a mostly contented profession, leading fairly comfortable lives. More than nine out of 10 teachers over 30 own their own homes and most of those over 40 are in detached houses. Most have fairly new cars, take less than half an hour to get to work, go abroad for their holidays, drink moderately or not at all.

But more than four out of five teachers think their job has become more pressured over the past year (especially heads and heads of department) and a sizeable minority are working very long hours, at school andor at home.

Nearly one in three has left the house by 7.30am. Of those, one in three does not get home until after 6pm. Three-quarters of all teachers spend more than an hour on marking, preparation or other school work on a typical weekday evening. Nearly one in three spends two hours or more.

Teachers in independent schools are in general far happier with their lot than teachers in state schools. An impressive 85 per cent of those in the private sector are satisfied, with twice as many "very satisfied" (38 per cent) as in the state sector.

By contrast, twice as many teachers in the state sector (26 per cent) are dissatisfied with their work as in the private sector.

However, there is very little difference between teachers in the two sectors on the subject of pay. Rather, the feeling of being comfortably off grows with age seniority and with distance from London.

Nearly all heads and deputies describe themselves as comfortable or well off, against less than 75 per cent of subject teachers and only 58 per cent of teachers under 30. But the regional variation is more striking. In the North, the Midlands and East Anglia, nearly 80 per cent consider themselves comfortably off. In London, that figure drops to just over half and 36 per cent consider themselves hard up.

Teachers seem to have embraced computers at last. Nearly three-quarters have a personal computer and 17 per cent have a lap-top. Fewer than a fifth (18 per cent) have neither. Nearly three-quarters use computers regularly in their classroom and nearly nine out of 10 think their use raises standards.

The six-term year is given a marginal thumbs-up. One in three teachers thinks it would make the job easier, while 22 per cent take the opposite view. But the largest proportion - 38 per cent - think it would make no difference.

And what is the teachers' verdict on Estelle Morris? Just over half (51 per cent) think she is "average". But more think she is "good" (21 per cent) than "poor" (13 per cent). Not bad, but room for improvement...

KEY FINDINGS

* seven out of 10 teachers are satisfied with their jobs * eight out of 10 feel "comfortably off" or "well off" but the figure falls to six out of 10 in London and among under-30s * 82 per cent of teachers feel under greater pressure than a year ago * only six out of 10 expect to be still teaching in five years' time * of those expecting to quit within five years, workload is by far the biggest reason for those under 50 * eight out of 10 oppose classroom assistants taking lessons in the absence of a teacher * one in three thinks a six-term year would make their job easier but more than a fifth think it would make the job harder * 82 per cent own a PC or laptop * 51 per cent think Estelle Morris is "average" as Education Secretary

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