We're still a happy lot

6th January 2006 at 00:00
TES survey shows majority of teachers are committed to their jobs. Graeme Paton and Sophie Kirkham report

Two-thirds of teachers are committed to the job and happy at work, despite mounting concerns over workload, a TES poll reveals.

Most said they had no regrets about entering the profession - and only 8 per cent would admit that teaching was not their true calling.

The poll of 500 teachers across Wales and England, including 82 heads or deputy heads, reveals that the promise of a "rewarding and varied" job and the chance to work with children were the main reasons for them entering the profession.

The conclusions were made despite overwhelming evidence that working conditions appear to be tougher than ever, with many teachers being forced to stay late at school and spending at least an hour working at home every night. An overwhelming 70 per cent of staff say they now find themselves under greater pressure compared with the same period in 2002. This is despite the introduction of Westminster government reforms last September that aim to give them at least one half-day a week outside the classroom to mark and prepare work.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"It is disappointing that the workforce agreement has not achieved the reduction in workload that was intended.

"Teachers must be tired to death of hearing about how their workload is going to be reduced when all they see is that it is expanding."

Only one in 50 teachers (2 per cent) said they had entered teaching primarily for the money and career prospects, although these were important secondary factors.

The average salary for a teacher is pound;32,000, and it is not unusual for heads to earn six-figure sums.

The survey, carried out by FDS International in November and December last year, showed that 71 per cent of the workforce said they saw teaching as a vocation or calling when they first entered the profession.

Overwhelmingly, teachers retain their sense of calling, with just one in eight (12 per cent) admitting to to having lost their original sense of vocation.

The poll's positive findings may help to explain rising recruitment to the profession. More than two-thirds of teachers in the survey said their workload had risen over the past four years.

Among headteachers and other members of the management team, up to 80 per cent said their workload had increased, mirroring conclusions made by Welsh inspection body Estyn last October that workforce reform had failed to ease the burden on senior staff.

The hours teachers spend at school also seem to be on the increase. The survey shows that 51 per cent of teachers leave home before 7.30am compared with just 31 per cent four years ago, although earlier starting times are more common in the south of England because of commuting time.

A further 18 per cent of teachers now leave for school before 7.30am and arrive home after 6pm, compared with only 10 per cent in 2002.

Nineteen out of 20 teachers say they have to work at home every night, with three-quarters spending more than an hour marking or preparing lessons.

This appears to have a knock-on effect on their home lives, with 60 per cent of those who have children saying they no longer have time to share an evening meal with their families every night.

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