Teachers in Scotland spend more time at the chalkface than in any other developed country, according to new figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Its annual Education at a Glance report, published this week, showed that in both primary and secondary, Scottish teachers spend a higher proportion of their time in class contact - just over 60 per cent of their working hours - than teachers in the other 13 countries surveyed.
Teachers in Hungary, by contrast, spend about 35 per cent of their statutory working hours in front of a class. Scotland came fourth - behind the USA, Mexico and New Zealand - when the OECD measured the actual number of teacher contact hours in the lower secondary school, an average of 835 hours a year.
But the report includes a health warning: "Net contact time does not necessarily correspond to the teaching load. Contact time is a substantial component, but preparation for classes and necessary follow-up (including students' work) also need to be included in comparisons of teaching loads. Other relevant elements (such as the number of subjects taught, the number of students taught, and the number of years a teacher teaches the same students) should also be taken into account."
The OECD publication comes at a time when Glasgow City Council's leader, Gordon Matheson, has called for a renegotiation of the teachers' agreement in order to increase their contact time by 30 minutes per day - an estimated saving of pound;15 million to the authority. Edinburgh City Council's leader, Jenny Dawe, has also backed the proposal and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has a working group examining teachers' pay and conditions in the run-up to next year's renegotiation of their agreement.
But Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "As this publication clearly shows, in no other country do teachers spend more of their working day teaching classes than in Scotland, yet Scotland continues to rank far lower in terms of the salaries paid to our teachers."
Non-promoted teachers are better paid in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Korea, Ireland, the Netherlands and Japan, according to the OECD. Based on 2008 figures, the OECD said that a Scottish teacher at the top of the unpromoted scale earned pound;32,500 compared with pound;63,920 in Luxembourg (the highest) and pound;12,500 in Poland (the lowest).
Mr Smith said the survey also showed that teachers in Scotland continued to work "some of the longest teaching hours in Europe".
"This publication clearly demonstrates that recent politically-motivated attacks on Scottish teachers' working hours and terms and conditions are well wide of the mark and are more based on misinformation and myth rather than any credible hard evidence," he said.
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "I know Scottish teachers are working extremely hard and doing a very good job. The OECD report continues to highlight that the salaries and working conditions of teachers in Scotland remain competitive with other international contemporaries.
"With full implementation of Curriculum for Excellence now upon us, it is essential that we continue to ensure teachers are fully supported and prepared so that pupils reap the benefits. I will continue to work to do what I can to make sure teachers get the support they need."
60% Proportion of Scottish teachers' working hours spent on contact time.