Time bandits

17th November 2006 at 00:00
Whether you're struggling with the job or loving it, all NQTs should take full advantage of the support on offer in their induction year. Sara Bubb

How many hours a week are you working? It's a good idea to keep a record because - let's be honest - you could work 24 hours a day for seven days a week and still find more to do.

But you've come into the profession at an ideal time to reap the benefits of research, campaigns and legislation aimed at reducing teachers' workload and improving work-life balance. You should now not be doing routine admin tasks such as display, photocopying and exam invigilation; and covering for colleagues should be a rare event.

And, if you are on induction you should have a 10 per cent reduced timetable, with 10 per cent of that freed up for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA).

But something must be wrong, because every new teacher I meet seems to be working very long hours. A month into the job, about 90 primary NQTs in Lambeth, south London totted up how many hours they had worked in the past week. Half were working more than 60 hours - that's three times as long as they are teaching for. One in 10 had worked for more than 70 hours, and two had clocked up in excess of 80 hours.

Yet, in the same room, doing a similar job and getting paid the same, were a few revved up people who were managing to get the job done in about 48 hours.

That enormous disparity does not make sense, on all manner of levels. For a start, with a take-home pay of about pound;1,410 a month, that works out to roughly pound;7 an hour for people working 50-hour weeks, while people working 80-hour weeks end up with an hourly rate of about pound;4.50, after deductions.

Not only is working long hours financially crazy, but it's bad for your health and wellbeing. As Estelle Morris said when she was education secretary: "A tired teacher is not an effective teacher." If you don't get enough sleep, noisy classrooms are unbearable. When you're tired, you over-react to minor irritations and end up with even more problems on your hands.

November and December are the hardest months in the school year. With the decreasing number of daylight hours, deteriorating weather and the festive season looming, you will have too much to do in too little time. If you're to survive until the end of term you need to be ruthlessly efficient and use every minute well.

More ideas about how to do that will follow next week Sara Bubb is an educational consultant specialising in induction

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