Independent school teachers working excessive extra hours – ATL poll

Nine-in-ten (92.5%) of teachers in independent schools are working over their contracted hours each week, with seven-in-ten (74%) saying their workload has increased over the past year, according to a recent poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

ATL surveyed 730 teachers working in the independent sector earlier this month and found that more than a third (32.7%) are working up to 10 hours over their contracted hours every week, more than a third (36.5%) are working between 11 and 20 hours extra, and almost a quarter (23.3%) over 21 hours extra.

Eighty-one per cent are working extra hours because their workload demands it, and 20% said they work extra hours because their school demands them to.

A teacher from the south west said: “I moved from full-time to part-time because I was working over 70 hours per week and I burned out.”

A teacher from the south east said: “I have regularly worked four out of five evenings in the week and at least one and a half days on the weekend.”

A teacher from the south east said: “I now work part-time – having stepped down from a management role. I was fed up with working such very long hours, 65 hours plus per week.”

A head of department in the south west said: “It is not possible to complete my job within ‘usual’ working hours. My marking takes 9.5 hours a week and I do not have that many ‘free’ lessons.”

Anecdotally, many respondents stated that changes to the GCSE and A-level syllabus have generated extra workload, with additional planning required.

A head of house from the south west said: “We are expected to do more and more, especially outside of school hours, while still being told that we have to deliver outstanding lessons!”

A teacher from the eastern region said: “So many more initiatives are generating paperwork, box ticking, etc, all taking time away from the key tasks of planning, delivering lessons and giving feedback to students.”

Many independent teachers are expected to ‘be on call’, with almost 20% (19.9%) saying they are expected to respond immediately when parents contact them direct, rather than just responding during ‘school hours’.

A teacher in the south east said: “The school policy is to respond within two to three working days, but in reality, lots of staff reply at evenings or weekends and I feel some parents and pupils expect you to be on email at any time, and email with queries which assume you will check outside school hours.”

A head of department in the south west said: “Parents tend to expect an immediate response, and there is no school policy on email reply.”

To add extra pressure to already over-burdened teachers, over a quarter (27%) said they have been asked, or have been expected to teach, outside their specialist subject in the past two years. Of those who were asked to teach outside their specialist subject, 60% (59.9%) said they didn’t feel they were adequately supported or trained to do so.

A teacher from the south west said they have had to teach “religious studies, but I don’t even have an A-Level in the subject!”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “Independent school staff, along with other education professionals, face excessive workloads and are working longer hours’ year-on-year. It is especially worrying that so many of those working in independent schools are expected to work extra hours, and that some schools even demand them to.

“Too many schools are not taking work-life balance seriously enough. Independent schools should agree expectations with parents and staff about when staff will respond to messages. Independent schools need to encourage a better work-life balance as a heavy, unmanageable and unrealistic workload is leading to increasing numbers of experienced and valuable staff leaving the profession.

“ATL will continue to work to help teachers tackle workload. ATL’s work-life campaign, ‘It’s about time’, gives members the help and advice they need to start taking action for themselves, and with colleagues.”

There seems to be a lot about teacher workload this week. On Thursday we heard from Sir Andrew Carter. What do you think can be done to help improve teacher workloads? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie

For anyone struggling to keep on top of their workload, our book ‘Managing Teacher Workload‘ is an invaluable read. Read an extract here.

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