Teachers in England work longer hours than most other countries

A fifth of teachers in England work 60 hours or more a week, new report shows.

Eleanor Busby

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Teachers in England work longer hours than peers in most other countries, new analysis has found.

A report into teacher workload in secondary schools has revealed that teachers in England work 48.2 hours a week on average.

Out of 36 developed countries and jurisdictions surveyed, only Japan and Alberta reported longer hours.

The analysis, from Education Policy Institute (EPI), found that a fifth of teachers also work at least 60 hours a week – and marking and administration tasks took up a significant amount of their time.  

Three-fifths of teachers in England say long working hours are hindering their access to continuing professional development (CPD), analysis of the OECD’s latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) shows.

International comparisons

The EPI report compares the working hours, pay, and experience of secondary school teachers in England with those of 35 other developed countries or jurisdictions.

It finds that teachers in England spent an average of four days on CPD – including courses, observational visits, seminars and in-service training, in the last year, compared with an average of 10.5 days. This is a tenth of the time teachers in Shanghai spend on CPD.

And yet, the starting pay for teachers in England in the early stages of their career is 16 per cent lower than the OECD average, the Teacher workload and professional development in England’s secondary schools report reveals.  

Peter Sellen, report author and chief economist at the EPI, says long hours, low starting pay and limited access to professional development creates a risk of teacher “burn out”.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, added that addressing these three challenges should be a “major focus for the government, policymakers, and school leadership” as they “have clear risks for recruiting, retaining and developing a high quality teacher workforce.”

He added: “This is an important piece of research. Sometimes policymakers spend a disproportionate time on debating school structural reform and too little time considering how we can improve the quality of teaching in our 24,000 schools.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Most worrying is the fact that teachers' professional development is being cut, at a time when there is massive change in the curriculum, its assessment and qualifications.

“The government must take heed: rushed, badly implemented and botched educational reforms result in stressed, over tired and less effective teachers. Ministers must take responsibility for a mess which is largely of their own making.”

Kevin Courtney, general Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “The fact that teachers are working 60 hours a week is totally unacceptable and is exacerbating the teacher shortage. 

He added: “There is no excuse for this desperate situation. All of the issues facing teachers and education in England can be resolved by government if they only listened to the profession.”

The Department for Education said it recognised teachers' concerns about workload.

“Teaching remains an attractive career and we have more teachers entering our classrooms than those choosing to leave or retire," a DfE spokesperson added. "Teacher retention has been broadly stable for 20 years and the annual average salaries for teachers in the UK are also greater than the OECD average, and higher than many of Europe’s high-performing education systems like Finland, Norway or Sweden." 

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