A meaningful contractual limit on teachers' working hours may now be in view after the workload study by independent consultants found that rank-and-file secondary teachers worked an average 2,122 hours a year.
This compares to the open-ended stipulation in teachers' current contracts of 1,265 hours. The study said that primary teachers work 2,174 hours a year. Headteachers work 2,567 hours annually in secondary schools and 2,397 in primary schools.
But the study also found that, annually, teachers worked little more than people in comparable jobs - on average 2,112 hours a year. However, this comparison was not true for heads. The study also concluded that English and Welsh teachers did not work substantially longer than those overseas.
Consultants Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, who carried out research in 48 schools, said this week that they may recommend changes to teachers' contracts when they deliver the final report in November. The prospect was not ruled out by government officials.
The study, promised by ministers in March after threats of industrial action from four classroom unions, offers other potential solutions to teachers' "excessive" workloads. It calls for better use of support staff and computer technology, promoting more flexible working patterns for teachers and for headteachers and governors to be more conscious of staff workloads.
The research found that some teachers were doing 300 hours of work in the holidays, that some government initiatives were launched without considering their effects on teachers and that many heads did not think they should be concerned with staff workload.
Civil servants have recommended that the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) delay publishing its recommendations to the Government on teacher workload by two months next year to take account of the study's findings - a move contested by classroom unions.