In October, the Department for Education (DfE) published its Teacher Workload Survey for 2019, which attempts to act as a national ‘barometer’ for teachers’ working conditions. It also forms a key part of the DfE’s commitment to improving the evidence base on what drives unnecessary teacher workload and what works to reduce it.
Throughout the DfE’s report, which gathered results from a nationally representative survey of teachers over a three-week period, comparisons are made to the same publication in 2016.
Despite small wording changes to the 2019 survey, and efforts to minimise response bias, it is now possible to ask the question, “Teacher Workloads in England – Are They Improving?”
- Teachers and middle leaders report working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016.
According to the survey, self-reported working hours for all teachers and middle leaders went down 4.9 hours, from 49.5 to 54.4. Total recorded hours for all primary teachers and middle leaders was 50 hours (down 5.5 hours), while secondary teachers and middle leaders was 49.1 hours (down 4.4 hours).
“Consistent with previous teacher workload studies, primary teachers and middle leaders work longer hours than their colleagues in secondary schools, although this difference has fallen from 2.0 hours on average per week since 2016, to 0.9 hours,” noted the report.
- Out-of-school hours has fallen for teachers and middle leaders
Primary teachers and middle leaders reported working an average of 12.5 hours during weekends, evenings or other out-of-school hours, while secondary teachers and middle leaders reported working an average of 13.1 out-of-school hours. When compared to 2016, these are respectively 5.0 and 3.8 hours lower.
Out-of-school hours also fell as a proportion of total working hours – for primary teachers and middle leaders it went down 7 percentage points to 25 per cent, and for secondary teachers and middle leaders, this was down 6 percentage points to 26 per cent.
Other findings include:
- Senior leaders work fewer hours in 2019 than they did in 2016.
- Primary and secondary teachers and middle leaders spent the same amount of time teaching in 2019 as they did in 2016.
- Primary teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders were less likely than those in the secondary phase to say that workload was a ‘very’ serious problem.
Does this mean teachers now have more manageable and enjoyable workloads?
Even though the DfE’s survey reports a reduction in average working hours, most respondents still said too much time was spent on planning, marking, data management and general administrative work.
In fact, the report even admitted that “improving teachers’ perceptions of their workload involves more than just reducing the number of hours they work.”
Another interesting takeaway was the fact that teachers in primary academies, middle leaders, respondents from secondary schools and respondents in Ofsted-category Requires Improvement or Inadequate schools are more likely to say that their workloads are a problem. Thankfully this is something the DfE is eager to improve:
“The DfE may want to explore further the underlying causes of these views of workload, and how it might further help to reduce the unnecessary workload of the teachers in these groups.”