The education system would fall over without many hours of teacher overtime. How long until this goodwill is withdrawn?

28th September 2016 at 18:04
The consequences of school staff deciding to work-to-rule would be profound for schools, pupils and parents. As it stands, it’s only a matter of time before something gives, writes one educationalist

There is no doubt that the vast majority of teachers do far more work than they are either contracted or paid to do. Recent BBC research showed that the average primary class teacher, if there is such a thing, worked 59 hours per week. If we consider that only 20 hours of this time is actually in front of a class, then it means a phenomenal amount of time is spent on preparation or marking or taking on the many additional responsibilities a class teacher now has.

These extra hours teachers work are interesting when our unions expect a 32.5 to 35-hour week. The truth therefore is that the education system is surviving only because of the additional work all our teachers do – otherwise known as teacher "goodwill".

This goodwill means teachers teachers attend far too many meetings, both before and after school. It allows for children to benefit from all the clubs they run that make up for the restricted curriculum we now endure. It means teachers become subject managers, which they all seem to be at present. It means they attend governors' meetings, and parents' meetings,open evenings and fetes, and take children on trips and residential courses. Even then teachers feel they are not doing enough.

Useful this "goodwill", eh?

The reality, however, is that nearly 60 hours per teacher per week has become a norm. No wonder teachers struggle to achieve a work-life balance. If teacher's pay reflected this work it might help, but that is not the case. Half of a teacher’s time is not being paid for.

For government, schools, leaders and parents this is now the norm.

However, they need to recognise it comes at a cost. Inevitably it leads to absenteeism and affects teachers' wellbeing. We are storing up problems for the future. We have created a vicious circle.

As such, teachers are looking outside the profession for better pay and recognition. Recent years have seen the system bombarded with new initiatives, increased expectations and excessive target setting. They result in the withdrawal of "goodwill" that affects the education of hundreds of thousands of children.

Let's hope our government recognises that teachers are overworked and underpaid.

We don't want to see a withdrawal of teachers 'goodwill' as inevitable. Teachers don't ask for much, but is it too much to expect recognition for the wonderful job they do day in day out.

Colin Harris is a former primary head and is now supporting teachers and headteachers.

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