At least 70% of teachers working over contracted hours

Teachers are still putting in 50 hours a week on average and heads are working 55 hours a week

Helen Ward


New Department for Education commissioned research shows that 76 per cent of secondary teachers and 70 per cent of primary teachers say their workload is unachievable within their contracted hours.

The DfE’s Teacher Workload Survey, published today, says that despite reductions in teachers’ workload in the last three years, nine out of 10 secondary school staff say workload is a fairly or very serious problem.

The survey has found that teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders are working between 4.4 and 5.5 fewer hours per week on average in 2019 than in 2016.

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But this still leaves a workload of 50 hours per week in primary and 49 per week in secondary.

And senior leaders reported they worked on average 55 hours in 2019, down from 60.5 hours in 2016.

“For too long, teachers have been working too many hours on time-consuming admin tasks that simply don’t add value in the classroom,” education secretary Gavin Williamson said.

“But the findings in today’s report give me real optimism that, working with the profession, we are making a real difference, driving down the number of hours teachers work on these burdensome and unnecessary tasks.

“However, I am not complacent, and it’s clear from meeting many teachers across the country that we have more to do.”

The survey of more than 7,000 staff – carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the DfE – concludes that there has been a genuine fall in the average working hours of teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders and that this is due to reductions in non-teaching activities such as marking.

But it warns: “With about seven out of 10 primary respondents and nine out of 10 secondary respondents still reporting workload is a ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ serious problem, it is also clear that there is more work to do to reduce unnecessary workload for teachers, middle leaders, and school leaders.”

The researchers found that 76 per cent of secondary teachers and middle leaders "strongly disagreed" with the statement: "I can complete my assigned workload during my contracted hours"; 40 per cent "strongly disagreed" with the statement: "I have an acceptable workload"; and 38 per cent "strongly disagreed" with the statement: "Overall, I achieve a good balance between my work life and my private life."

The equivalent figures for primary teachers and middle leaders were 70 per cent, 29 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

This is a “notable improvement” on 2016, the report states. It points out that in 2016, 59 per cent of primary teachers strongly disagreed with the statement: "I have an acceptable workload."

Most respondents (55 per cent or more) reported that attempts to reduce workload in their schools in the last two years had included changes to data tracking, behaviour, marking and feedback and teacher appraisal – but only 20 per cent felt these changes had worked.

The one exception was changes to primary schools’ marking policies, which 40 per cent said had resulted in less workload.

The DfE has said that future work to reduce workload and improvement teacher recruitment and retention includes extending nine of the 11 curriculum fund pilots for an additional two terms, after initial research found almost half of teachers taking part said their workload had decreased due to the programme.

It involves schools producing a complete package of resources to enable teachers to deliver a subject across a key stage. The DfE said it will also launch a new opportunity for schools and colleges to participate in the EdTech Innovation Testbed to trial timetabling software, and begin the process of enabling schools to apply to become EdTech demonstrators.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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