Light at end of workload tunnel

17th October 2003 at 01:00
Robin Precey Answers your leadership questions

I have worked very hard in my new post as I am a Year 6 teacher, key stage 2 co-ordinator with extra responsibility for health and safety, numeracy, PE and KS2 assessment. I am not on the leadership pay scale either. I am travelling 32 miles a day and feel shattered when I get home. I am seriously thinking of giving up teaching to get my life back. Can you offer any hope?

I sympathise with your situation. Teaching today is challenging - physically, intellectually and in also terms of testing our values. This is true of all sectors whether primary, secondary or special education.

However, many primary teachers often have responsibilities on top of classroom teaching. It would appear that the issues that teachers are most unhappy about , aside from managing student behaviour, are bureaucracy and accountability - which in practice means recording and demonstrating your achievements for everyone from inspectors to parents . The latter two seem to be aspects of your job that are getting you (and others) down.

So what's to be done? Why not start by reminding yourself why you became a teacher - the core values that motivate you. Hold onto these and find opportunities in your job - moments of celebration - to remind you of them.

All of us can usually find them if we are looking. Most often they come from the children. The Monty Python ethos to "always look on the bright side of life" is not a bad one for teachers!

Next put the responsibilities and associated bureaucracy and accountability in perspective. Ultimately you have to put limits on how much time, effort and worry you put into these. Obviously we are all affected by what others think about us but it is you who lives your job and it is your conscience you need to satisfy.

Relief may also be in sight as things should be changing. The workforce re-modelling initiative should have a major impact on teachers' workload, if properly funded. Some of your administrative work should diminish if it has not done so already. The Department for Education and Skills is also keen to "bust bureaucracy" in schools but we await to see whether this becomes a reality.

It would be good for you to discuss the issues you have raised with your head as there will need to be a whole-school response to these government initiatives. Outline the issues as you see them to herhim and put forward, if you can, some practical solutions.

You could also raise the issue of your your salary as well as requesting training to help you carry out your responsibilities. Changes will not happen overnight. But there is hope.

As to your travel problem, in theory, a 16-mile journey to work does not sound too far from the experience of many teachers. However travel times do vary a great deal. I assume you have considered the option of re-locating home or school. The hope then is that coming improvements in your work situation will leave you less tired when you are get home at the end of a more satisfying day.

Robin Precey has been in education for 31 years, the past 12 as head of Seaford Head community college in East Sussex. He is also a consultant on the National College for School Leadership's New Visions programme. Do you have a school leadership or management question? Email

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