Teachers more likely to work 'excessive' overtime than those in other professions, TUC finds

Kaye Wiggins

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The number of teachers working more than 48 hours per week has risen by almost a third in the past five years, far outstripping other comparable professions, research indicates.  

A study of official figures by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that 492,000 people working in education had a normal working week of 48 hours or more in 2015. The figure is up from 376,000 in 2010, an increase of 31 per cent.

The union said the “overwhelming majority” of those working long hours in education were teachers, although the category also includes other school staff.

The number of people working more than 48 hours per week has risen faster in education than in most other professions. Among people working in “professional, scientific and technical activities” the rise was 16 per cent and in information and communication it was 22 per cent. However, in health and social work the rise was marginally higher at 32 per cent.

TES reported earlier this year that teachers were more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week.

The TUC said too many people were stuck in “burnout Britain” and warned that these “excessive hours” were linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, mental illness and diabetes.

“Britain’s long hours culture is hitting productivity and putting workers’ health at risk,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said.

Tens of thousands of teachers responded to the Department for Education’s Workload Challenge this year with suggestions for cutting their workload. In response, the government announced a “new deal” in which teachers would no longer be subjected to major changes in Ofsted inspections or government policy during the academic year.

But Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, told TES that this response had been insufficient and that the TUC figures were “alarming”.

“So much of teachers’ extra work is unproductive,” he said. “The work is done to feed the accountability machine, not to help children grow intellectually. That makes it all the more outrageous.”

He said schools faced a “quadruple whammy” of teacher-supply problems: rising pupil numbers, rising numbers of teachers leaving the profession, fewer people entering the profession and a growing economy that would make other jobs more attractive to potential teachers. Teachers’ heavy workload would worsen the problem, he said.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are working with the profession to address the causes of unnecessary workload. Last year we launched the Workload Challenge – which received more than 44,000 responses – and we are going further by setting up three groups that will make concrete recommendations on reducing the burdens of marking, data management and planning.

“Many schools are already looking at ways to cut workload and we want more to do the same.”


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Kaye Wiggins

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