Most teachers struggle to balance work and personal lives, research shows

International research focusing on Scotland also finds that teachers feel they have little influence over national policy

Henry Hepburn

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The overwhelming majority of teachers in Scotland do not believe they have a good work-life balance – and few feel they have any influence over national education policy or how much they are paid, according to new international research.

The first of a series of surveys of teachers in different countries finds that a “striking” 78 per cent in Scotland do not feel they can have a good work-life balance.

And only 15 per cent feel “empowered or listened to” on national decisions about education”, amid complaints that a “top-down system” is dominated by national policymakers, according to the research by The Centre for the Use of Research in Education (CUREE) and Education International (EI).

No control

The research, which explores how “national policies and cultural factors influence the development of teachers’ professional identities”, also suggests that 97 per cent of teachers feel they have little or no control over their pay.

Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) say they have little or no control over how they and other teachers are assessed.

Time constraints and workload “dictated from a higher level” were common complaints that the researchers came across.

One primary teacher in the survey said: “I get told what to do with very little regard to my opinion or experience.”

A secondary PE teacher said: “I work tirelessly to provide the best possible experience for the learners in my classes. I often feel that this is never noticed or valued.”

Researchers also find that “ensuring success in formal examinations is the least important of [Scottish teachers’] aims, while promoting students’ enjoyment is the first”.

Lack of opportunities

Scottish teachers feel they have relatively high levels of autonomy over their individual teaching and professional development.

However, while most want to “engage in lifelong professional learning”, they see a lack of opportunities to do so.

CUREE head of research Philippa Cordingley said the findings could “hold up a constructive mirror for the profession” and “build a bigger picture” to help education systems in different countries learn from each other.

The project is also analysing data from Germany, Kenya, Canada, Sweden, Chile and Singapore, which it will bring together in a single publication. Scotland is the first country to have been surveyed.

The Scottish survey had more than 1,300 responses and was supported by the country’s biggest teaching union, the EIS.

Teacher exodus

Last September, research by academics at Bath Spa University suggested that “extremely poor” working conditions could cause a “huge exodus” of staff from Scottish schools.

Reducing teacher workload has been a top priority for education secretary John Swinney: just before Christmas, a new teacher pay deal was agreed, although it has not removed the possibility of Scottish teachers striking this year.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Education is this government’s number one priority and a key part of our reforms is to create greater empowerment within the teaching profession. That is crucial to ensure the profession is able to inspire our young people in Scotland. We are are taking decisive action to support this and are investing heavily to help recruit and retain teachers."

He added: "We have undertaken a range of actions to tackle bureaucracy to open up greater opportunities for professional learning and development. That will continue to be a key theme of our reforms which also include headteachers being given more power to make the key decisions in their schools to improve the education of the children in their care.”

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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