And they said things could only get better

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Pressure has piled on - especially in primaries. More than 8 out of 10 teachers say the job has become tougher since the last election but most remain optimistic about their work. Clare Dean reports.

ALTHOUGH most teachers say they are satisfied with their jobs, the vast majority - more than eight out of 10 - believe they have been under greater pressure since Labour swept to power three years ago.

Top of the wish-list of things that would help them be more effective were less paperwork, smaller classes and more non-contact time.

Since May 1997 circulars, guidance notes and documents have rained down from the Department for Education and Employment like confetti. More than 1,291 documents have been sent to councils and at least 366 to schools - 18 a month on ministers' own figures. Surveys by the pay review body show teachers are working longer hours and teaching more and larger classes.

The second largest teaching union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, is even threatening to work-to-rule unless ministers limit teachers' hours.

Only 2 per cent of the 501 teachers polled for The TES by FDS International reported life had become less pressured during the past three years.

For the rest, 85 per cent of teachers complained of more pressure while 14 per cent maintained the momentum had stayed the same.

Primary schools, the first to fall under the ministerial spotlight with the push on literacy and numeracy, have felt the heat more than most, the poll reveals.

Some 89 per cent of primary teachers interviewed said their jobs had become more pressured with complaints particularly high among headteachers.

With the Government now switching its focus to secondary schools they can now expect the same treatment. Almost eight out of 10 secondary teachers already say their workload has increased.

Young teachers in both primary and secondary schools particularly felt the pressure. Not one of the under-30s interviewed said it had decreased. Just 9 per cent reported it had stayed the same.

Sue Rogers, head of history at King Edward VII, Sheffield, once hurt her back wheeling the curriculum paperwork created by the Tories on to n NASUWT conference stage. The situation today, she says, is no better. The changes to the A-level curriculum, the assessment and report writing for pupils and staff, the constant demand from government bodies for data, chasing attendance and her work as a governor all took a lot of time.

"I'm teaching every moment of the day God gives, and have to cover for other staff because we can't get supply. This means I hardly have a weekend free," said the former NASUWT president.

When teachers were asked what would make their teaching more effective, less regulation and paperwork, and smaller classes and more non-contact time far outstripped more money for books, equipment and school buildings and sabbaticals for teachers.

And although more than two-thirds are satisfied or very satisfied with their job, more than half - 58 per cent - said they would not recommend teaching as a career to a son or daughter.

Nevertheless, most teachers (57 per cent) remain optimistic about their own professional futures and almost one in five is "very optimistic". Teachers under 30 and heads and deputies, particularly in secondary schools, are the most upbeat; 63 per cent of men are optimists compared with 53 per cent of women.

Ordinary teachers are the most pessimistic; three out of 10 form teachers are "rather pessimistic" though only six in 100 said they are "very pessimistic".

Teachers at special and private schools were the most satisfied (86 per cent) with their jobs. Almost half of private school teachers were very satisfied.

Full report of poll findings, Briefing, 22-23


* 54 per cent of teachers say they will vote Labour

* Two-thirds say that they are satisfied with their job

* Less than a third think Labour has increased support to schools

* Two-thirds believe that pupil behaviour has deteriorated since the last election

* One in three has been threatened with violence by a pupil or parent in the past year

* More than half say that funding for their school has increased since 1997

* Three in five say Ofsted should be reformed. Most others want it scrapped

* More than half think standards have risen since 1997

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