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Private school fees rise, but teachers working longer for no extra cash, survey finds

Private school staff are taking on longer hours and heavier workloads for no extra pay despite rising school fees and healthy pupil numbers, a survey has concluded. 

Research conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which represents both state and independent sectors, showed almost a quarter of their private school members were working more than 60 hours a week, an increase of 3 per cent from last year. 

Nearly half (43 per cent) of respondents said they were working between 49 and 60 hours each week, despite one in three schools reporting their school fees had gone up by around 4 per cent. 

The longer hours comes with very little in terms of extra money in their pay packets, however, with the vast majority stating they had received increases that were less than inflation. 

The findings come after a boarding school was last year forced to make payouts to two teachers who claimed they were made to work 120-hour weeks and were left "shattered by sleep deprivation".

Two "house parents" at the boarding house at Edge Grove School in Hertfordshire said they were made to work 24 hours a day for at least five days a week without sufficient breaks. They complained that a typical day at the co-educational 3-13 school included a wake-up call and breakfast for pupils at 7am, lessons all day, supper and dorm supervision until 9.30pm and on-call duties overnight.

Today's survey result came after ATL interviewed more than 1,000 independent school teachers, and found a fifth had not received any increase in pay despite the rise in working hours.

Two-thirds said they had been offered a 2 per cent increase in the past year, but this was still below the rate of inflation, which stood at 3.2 per cent in September.

The figures show this was against a backdrop of healthy pupil numbers, with 40 per cent of respondents stating their school rolls had gone up and a further 29 per cent stating their pupil places had remained the same.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, called for the independent sector to address the issue of longer hours or risk staff “burnout” and questioned whether parents were aware of where their money went.

“This survey shows that the workload of our independent school members continues to increase year on year, with many left feeling demoralised,” Dr Bousted said. “However, these extra hours aren’t reflected in members’ pay. Are parents aware that the premium they are paying for their children’s education isn’t being passed down to staff?”

A number of respondents to the survey also pointed out that their schools were embarking on major building projects, such as new sports halls and even cinemas, while salaries had barely budged. 

Half of those questioned said their schools had embarked or were about to embark on a building project, from new science blocks to extra sports facilities, this coming year. 

One teacher respondent said: “My school has spent a substantial amount of money within the last year on building projects, it has employed an increasing number of administrative staff, and it has increased its fees by over four per cent per annum over the last three years. 

“However, the increase in basic salaries for staff was frozen in 2011 and 2012 and has increased by 1.5% in 2013.”    

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