Keeping a close eye on hours

17th February 1995 at 00:00
The teacher unions had made strong representations to us about the adverse effect of workloads on motivation and morale, particularly in the primary sector. Following detailed consultation, a survey was conducted of just under 4,000 teachers at schools throughout England and Wales.

This showed variations in the total hours worked. For example, while the average for full-time primary school classroom teachers was just under 49 hours, 72 per cent worked between 40 and 55 hours, some 11 per cent worked less and some 17 per cent worked more. For full-time secondary classroom teachers, whose average was just under 49 hours, the equivalent figures were respectively 68 per cent, 12 per cent and 20 per cent.

As teachers' responsibilities increased, the hours they worked also rose, with most hours being worked by headteachers - over 55 hours in primary schools and about 61 hours in secondary schools.

Classroom teachers taught for between 19 and 20 hours in both primary and secondary schools. As responsibilities increased, hours spent teaching fell: to almost 17 hours for deputies and about 5 hours for heads in primary schools; and to 9 hours and to less than 3 hours, respectively, in secondary schools.

The Secretary of State recognised that recent years had been difficult for teachers. However, she believed that problems of workload should be resolved at school level through good management, and that it would be inappropriate to impose statutory restrictions on schools' managerial freedom. The National Employers and the two head teacher associations were also opposed to making changes to the statutory conditions of service. The Labour Force Survey data for the Spring quarter of 1994 show that full-time teachers averaged around 46 to 48 hours in a full working week. Over a whole year, and allowing for holidays and other absences, teachers' hours appeared to be about the same, or slightly less, than for other professional groups. There is evidence that workloads are increasing generally for professional groups and that teachers are part of that broad trend. For teachers, the implementation of the national curriculum and associated testing arrangements has been a major factor underlying the increase, and the streamlining of the curriculum now taking place should improve matters. Two years ago we said we were particularly concerned about the negligible amount of non-contact time available to most primary teachers.

We commented that if this did not increase in the next year or two, we might . . . recommend a statutory minimum. We note that for primary school teachers there has been a slight fall in the class contact rate and consequently a slight rise in non-contact time. We note that the comparable data for secondary school teachers suggests a slight decrease in non-contact time.

We remain opposed to statutory constraints on teachers' hours or local discretion in such matters as non-contact time, class sizes or arrangements to provide cover but there are possible grounds for concern about the increasing pressure on school resources, and the possible implications for teachers' workloads, their morale and motivation, and the quality of education they are able to provide. This should be kept under close review by the DFE.

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