Fraught heads spend half-term in data hell

12th March 2010 at 00:00
The only time school leaders got some kip was between 1.18 and 5.20am

School has broken up for half-term and it's one in the morning. Are you: a) out on the town carousing the night away; b) relaxing on the sofa with a DVD and a bottle of wine; or c) tucked up in bed sleeping the sleep of the righteous?

New research suggests that if you are a headteacher it may well be none of the above. Instead you will be hunched over a computer researching the finer points of school data.

A report released this week by The Key, an information and guidance service for school leaders, reveals the horrible truth about how many heads and deputies spend their time off.

During the February half-term week, the service's advice website was accessed 2,882 times, nearly three-quarters of the term-time rate of around 4,000 visits a week.

Worse still, the only time when there was no activity was between 1.18am and 5.20am.

Mick Brookes, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said: "That extra anxiety and pressure that some heads are under quite often means there are sometimes wakeful nights.

"This myth that school leaders and teachers have long holidays is blown."

And what exactly was it that was keeping a head so interested at 1.17am? An article explaining how to use pupils' point scores to work out the value added between Years 3 and 6.

But statistics for the whole of February show that heads used the website 45 times between 2-4am during term time.

Catherine Allan, from The Key, said: "It just goes to show that these people are very conscientious and under a lot pressure."

By far the most popular topic last month was not value added, but Ofsted's new school self-evaluation form (SEF). It accounted for 16.8 per cent of all visits to the site, way ahead of the next most popular topic, an article about funding opportunities available to schools, which had 1.5 per cent of visits.

John Dunford, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said the SEF had become a "major chore" for heads.

"They provide a format and discipline for self-evaluation," he said. "But some heads see that as a straitjacket and would prefer inspectors to look at the self-evaluation process rather than the form."

The Key was set up by the National College for School Leadership and the Training and Development Agency for Schools, but is now a private company.

'Extreme' overtime

Heads and teachers are more likely to do "extreme" unpaid overtime than any other professional group, according to Trades Union Congress research published last month.

- The survey found that 54 per cent of teachers did unpaid overtime and that more than one in five were working "extreme" overtime of an average 19 hours a week.

- The last School Teachers' Review Body teacher workload survey found that in 2008 the average working week for a secondary head had climbed to 59.5 hours, from 57.6 hours in 2007.

- Primary heads were working an average 55.2 hours a week, up from 54.2 in 2007.

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