THE time teachers are required to spend in contact with their classes and on other duties varies considerably across Europe.
While Scotland comes eighth out of 16 countries in a European survey on teachers' total working time, an analysis by the Educational Institute of Scotland suggests that Scottish teachers spend more time on actual teaching than in any of the other countries except the Netherlands and England and Wales.
Even within the British Isles the range for total working time is from 1,070 hours a year in Scotland to 1,265 in the rest of the country. Teaching time is from 855 hours a year in Scottish primary schools to 950 hours in secondary, but there is no specific maximum for standing in front of a class in the rest of the UK where the division between teaching and non-teaching time is left to the headteacher.
Figures published by Eurydice, the European Union education information network, show that in primaries the equivalent time goes from 570 hours a year in Sweden to 988 in the Netherlands. In the secondary sector, the range is from 498 hours in Sweden to 950 in Scotland.
The equivalents of the 1,070 annual working hours for Scottish teachers, encompassing teaching and other duties, also vary considerably from 846 in Irish primaries to 1,820 in Portuguese schools.
There are huge contrasts, too, between teaching and working time. Of the average 1,820 hours Portuguese teachers are expected to work each year, only between 420 hours in upper secondary and 875 hours in primary are spent teaching. This means they have a much more generous allocation for other duties such as preparation and marking, training, staff meetings and pupil discussion - although it does mean working longer hours.
Denmark also has a stark contrast between teaching and working hours - 750 against 1,680. But teacher contracts, as in Portugal, are based on 52 weeks not the 39-week year as in Scotland.
Portugal, Belgium, France and Finland reduce teaching loads at the higher stages. Germany, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal also cut back on teaching towards the end of a teacher's career. In Portugal, those heading for their bus pass teach 40 per cent fewer hours.
Eurydice's figures, published in 1997, are for 1995-96 and there will have been changes. It also points out that the figures represent theoretical averages.