Teacher hours continue to rise

11th August 2000 at 01:00
Marking and preparation add 60 per cent more time than contracts demand.

TEACHERS are working longer hours than ever despite Government action to cut bureaucracy, official figures reveal today.

Primary teachers are working 53 hours a week - four hours more than six years ago - while the average working week in secondary and special schools now exceeds 51 hours, up by 3.4 hours.

At around 2,000 hours a year, not including work in holidays, that is 60 per cent more than their contracted minimum 1,265 hours a year.

But contracts say teachers must work any additional hours necessary to "discharge effectively" their duties. The School Teachers' Review Body report has prompted renewed calls from the unions for a fixed limit to teachers hours.

Department heads, deputies, and primary headteachers also work longer hours; only secondary heads have seen their 60-hour week stay relatively unchanged.

And despite the Government's plans to increase the number of classroom assistants, teachers report they still spend too much time cleaning out paint pots and photocopying.

The study, of the working weeks of 3,400 teachers and heads in England and Wales, found staff worked up to 15 hours a week at evenings and weekends.

Teachers spent half of their time with children. The bulk of the rest of the time is spent marking and preparation. Many admitted to cutting corners, such as skim-reading work, to try to fit everything in.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the exodus of heads from the profession would escalate unless the overnment took action by easing its intensive standards agenda and offering schools more support.

The review body warned ministers last year that workload was a growing cause for concern. Education Secretary David Blunkett has asked it to recommend action in the light of the new survey.

A second study, of teachers' attitudes to workload, revealed their awareness of the Department for Education and Employment's bureaucracy cutting advice was "low and vague". Some said that parts of it conflicted with other Government policies.

Teachers said they supported many Government initiatives, such as inclusion for disruptive pupils and mixed-ability teaching, but simply needed more help.

"Primary teachers felt they spend an inappropriate amount of time cleaning the classroom, washing paint pots and sharpening pencils," the report compiledfor the review body by BMRB Qualitative said.

Preparations for school inspections were considered "stressful and exhausting".

Schools minister Jacqui Smith said the Government was already funding 20,000 more classroom assistants, giving more support for small schools and had pledged to streamline funding and slash by a third the number of documents sent to schools.

But she hinted that the extra work had been worth it. "Standards in primary schools are rising year on year and we expect workloads to reduce as the strategies bed down," she said.

Some findings confound expectations. Class size, the number of pupils with special needs, and levels of poverty all had no impact on working hours, the report said.

Leader, 10

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