What is teacher workload like in Scotland?

The new pay deal has pushed the issue of excessive workload to the fore in Scotland, so how bad is it?

Emma Seith

What is teacher workload like in Scotland?

The majority of Scottish teachers say they work more than eight hours on top of their contractual working hours each week. Meanwhile, the unions say – now the battle over pay has been won – addressing excessive workload is their priority.

Here we take a look at what we know about the workload woes facing Scottish teachers:

What are the main issues driving teacher workload in Scotland?

In secondary, a lot of teachers blame the new qualifications – which started to be introduced in 2013-14 – for their workload burden. In a bid to tackle the problem, the Scottish government scrapped unit assessments, the small tests pupils had to pass throughout the school year under the new qualification regime. But, although the move had been called for by the teaching unions, the consequence was more change, with some exams becoming longer to compensate, as well as others being introduced for subjects such as dance that previously had no final written paper.

The hope now will be that as the new qualifications bed in, workload becomes more manageable. Also, with pay out of the way (for the time being), the teaching unions have made it clear that addressing workload is their prime concern.

What is driving workload in primary?

One of the key issues for primary teachers is the number of children in their classes with an identified additional support need (ASN). Overall, the number of children with ASNs in Scotland has risen exponentially in recent years as school budgets have been cut.

The number of pupils with (ASN) hit 199,065 in 2018, according to last year’s pupil census. That’s an increase of 8 per cent on the 2017 figure of 183,491 and 68.6 per cent on the 2012 figure of 118,034.

The result, teachers say, is that they are dealing with a wider range of needs but have less back-up in the form of classroom assistants and other support staff.

Figures published last year showed that, since 2010-11, real-terms spending per primary and secondary pupil had fallen by 9.6 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively, which translates as £513 less per primary pupil and £205 less per secondary pupil.

Is there any indication of how many additional hours Scottish teachers work?

Scottish teachers are supposed to work 35 hours per week, with a maximum of 22.5 hours devoted to class contact. In a recent survey by the EIS teaching union – the largest union in Scotland – six out of 10 full-time teachers said they worked more than eight hours extra on top of their contractual working hours each week.

What do school leaders say about workload?

A recent survey by primary school leaders’ body the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) found that staff in promoted posts in schools worked on average 54.4 hours per week, 19.4 hours above the contracted working week of 35 hours.

Headteachers worked the longest hours, on average 55.3 hours per week. More than 30 per cent of promoted staff in primaries reported working in excess of 60 hours per week.

In response to a question about what would make their job more manageable, the primary leaders said more management time, less paperwork and not having to cover classes.

What action is being taken to address teacher workload?

This will be the key issue for teaching unions. As part of the pay deal, the Scottish government and councils agreed to work “together to reduce the workload of teachers and to undertake joint activity to assist in reducing and preventing unnecessary workload”. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said recently that he now expected “local authorities and the Scottish government to make quick progress in delivering those commitments”.

Past experience, of course, tells us this is going to be a tough nut to crack.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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