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Study shows staff work 56-hour week

The burden of constant testing is adding more to average teacher workloads than previously thought, claim new surveys. Karen Thornton and Nic Barnard report

NEARLY two in five teachers are now testing their pupils more than once a month, and school staff are working an average 56-hour week, far more than previously thought.

The 56-hour figure from a new MORI poll follows surveys for the School Teachers Review Body showing that primary teachers work an average 51 hours a week, and secondary school staff 53 hours.

The increase in hours comes as teachers report they are now spending three-and-a-half hours a week preparing, marking and reporting on national tests, other exams and assessment. And it was revealed this week that the Government study into workload could cost the taxpayer more than pound;500,000.

The TES understands the study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, will cost at least pound;336,000 - and with the programme now expanded to look at 100 schools could be considerably more. PWC has given the Department for Education and Employment an estimate of pound;440,000 to cover 70 schools, and pound;336,000 if it sub-contracts half the school visits. VAT and expenses would take the bill over the pound;500,000 mark.

The steering group of union leaders, civil servants and employers' officials formed to oversee the work met for the first time last Friday. They were given a revised remit for the study.

Consultants will look at all aspects of teachers' andheadteachers' jobs and how they use their time both in and out of school; they will investigate the scope for reducing workload by using support staff, technology and changes in working practice.

Crucially, they will look at the impact of Government initiatives and demands from quangos as well as schools' internal working practices. Unions say it is the relentless reform, often through initiatives wrapped in bureaucracy, that has piled the workload on to teachers.

The figures highlighting the assessment burden come from the MORI poll of 1,001 teachers carried out on behalf of Goal, an online assessment provider.

Seven out of 10 teachers felt assessment in schools could be more effective, and even more (80 per cent) that technology could relieve the workload pressure. Both the headteacher and classroom unions blame the pressure on schools to demonstrate that pupils are making progress for the assessment burden.

Recent research (TES, May 11) has shown that primary school pupils can be subject to more than 30 national assessments, mostly tests, before they leave for secondary at age 11.

John Bangs, assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added:

"What's remarkable about the intensive and over-complex assessment and testing system is that teachers think it's a total chore.

"However, with the literacy and numeracy strategies, although the workload has been a problem, they have been seen as useful."

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