‘We need to admit that the job of the classroom teacher has simply become too big’

As we approach the Easter round of annual conferences for the teaching unions, it’s hardly surprising that the minds of teachers and the education press turn to working conditions – and workload in particular. Mary Bousted’s article, “We must stop trying to apply a sticking plaster to the gaping wound that is teacher workload“, calling for “a root-and-branch review of the professionalism, accountability and expectations placed upon the teacher workforce”, is timely. Tes reports.

We have still not reached the critical mass of enlightened school leaders and teachers that is needed for far-reaching change. Consequently, teacher recruitment remains low and retention needs to be much higher if beleaguered schools are going to provide a good education for the increasing numbers of pupils entering their gates.

I am not in favour of an unadulterated gloom-fest, but I am more than mildly irritated by articles that tell us that it’s our perceptions that are the problem. At least Emma Kell, who wrote in Tes, “The biggest crisis isn’t workload – teachers don’t mind hard work – it’s the erosion of trust“,  is a serving teacher. But she should know better. For teachers who work every evening working until 11.30pm to get the marking and planning done, rationing themselves to a two-hour break with spouse and children, the problem really is workload getting in the way of family life. Trust is a more abstract entity higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

So, for the record, let it be noted that teachers are working harder than ever before. And let me count the ways:

  1. Each year they spend hours filling in personal development plans, drawing together the evidence of all the written interventions and initiatives they have undertaken throughout the year. This will enable them to receive the paltry reward determined by the government pay policy. On this front alone, they work harder to receive what used to be theirs automatically – and some will not even receive that because of the dire state of funding in some schools. 

  2. They write more material than ever before. Teaching, it seems, is an endless production line of specially tailored PowerPoints. Some slides may be enduring, but let’s not forget that the wholesale change of assessment at key stage 4 and 5 has entailed the scrapping of previous resources and creation of new materials. 

  3. New examinations mean new mark schemes. These mark schemes are more onerous than they were before and challenge the working memory. It takes longer to assess each piece of work because of the prior reading. We need to remember that all teachers are new to the schemes, so start-up time is longer and decision-making more demanding.

Read 11 more reasons ‘We need to admit that the job of the classroom teacher has simply become too big’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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