Is the solution to reducing workload in your head, or in your headteacher?

Data from Teacher Tapp

Chief Operating Officer, Teacher Tapp

Teachers feel like they are working longer hours than ever before… we know this because at Teacher Tapp we check. Regularly. But WHY? Is it because headteachers require this, or is this a pressure some teachers are putting upon themselves?

Is workload increasing?

Whilst it can be tricky to measure workload (especially without adding to workload!), it is relatively simple to measure how long teachers spend working…

Asked ‘do you feel you are working longer hours than the previous year’ more than half of teachers in 2022 report longer hours than in 2021. And this is in itself a shift from previous years, e.g. in 2018, 47% said they were working longer hours than in 2017.

But doesn’t everyone feel like they are working longer hours?

How do we know if this is perception or reality? We check of course!

When we asked ‘how many hours did you work last week’ we find that compared to the same point in previous years, teachers are working more hours now. In particular, primary teachers’ working hours seem to be increasing. More than half of primary teachers said they were working 50 hours or more in November 2021.

What is taking up all this time?

When we asked teachers why they tend to work more than 40 hours a week, almost 90% simply said that they needed to do so, to get all their work done. One-in-five classroom teachers reported feeling pressure from their manager or the senior leadership team to work for so long – despite only 3% being told they had to.

But, if Heads aren’t asking teachers to spend this time working, who is?

A Teacher Tapper had a hypothesis… maybe people don’t believe that teachers can provide quality education while working for less than 45 hours per week?!? 

Sadly, it seems they are right. Just 39% of primary teachers said it was possible. Secondary teachers were slightly more lenient, with 49% agreeing.

All of which suggests that while there is a push to reduce workload (and working hours), there may be a psychological barrier as to how low that could go.

Is it in your head?

We did one final check by analysing whether the number of hours teachers are working influences whether they believe it’s possible to provide an excellent education on fewer work hours. And we found that the more hours they worked, the more likely they were to ‘strongly disagree’ that the low hours limit was possible. What we don’t know, is whether they are right.

What’s the solution?

To test the hypothesis that it’s not Head’s prescribing long hours, but a barrier in teachers’ heads that it’s not possible to do the job within the time available, we propose a challenge… For one term, run an 8-4:30 experiment. All schoolwork needs to take place within these hours. See what needs to drop and consider what the implications are. Is there evidence of a drop in quality of education, or, was it all in your head? 

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