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Guest blog: NUT chief, on why they're calling for a 20-hour teaching week. What do you think?

(54 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 04-Apr-13 09:42:13

Recent reports suggest that the NUT wants to limit the hours that their members spend actually teaching children to 20 per week. In this guest blog, their General Secretary Christine Blower says the truth is a little more complex.

"Despite newspaper headlines proclaiming that lazy teachers only want to work a 20 hour week, the real story is very different.

If you know a teacher, you can probably testify to the many additional hours they work, both in school and at home. A recent TUC survey found that teachers work more unpaid hours than almost any other profession - and the DfE's own Workload Diary Survey showed both primary and secondary classroom teachers work an average of 50 hours per week, with much of that done during evenings and weekends. The long working week, and constant pressure, means that teaching consistently ranks amongst the most stressful professions - prompting many dedicated but exhausted teachers to leave.

At the NUT conference this week, teachers spoke of starting work at 8am and finishing at 5pm - but then spending another 3 hours after their suppers, on endless paperwork. Others spoke of the weariness and stress caused by having to work open-ended additional hours simply in order to get the job done - and spending little or no time with their own families, due to the all-consuming nature of their workload.

Currently, most teachers spend 20 and 25 hours actual time in front of the classroom. The NUT is now asking for that to be set at 20 hours - with further time set aside for all the other work that goes into being a teacher. But the real problem is excessive preparation, marking and bureaucracy - data collection, assessment and other administrative tasks mean that many teachers work punishing hours.

This shouldn't just be a worry to teachers and their families; it should matter to everyone. No parent wants to see their child?s teacher struggling under the relentless pressure of targets and deadlines for bureaucratic tasks. To continue to deliver a world class education service, teachers need to be able to focus on what they love most and do best: nurturing their pupils' curiosity and love of learning, so that children strive to do their very best.

Behind the headlines, the way forward is not difficult to see. Ten years ago, a 35-hour working week was introduced for teachers in Scotland - with little fuss, and through agreement by government, employers and unions. Then, all recognised that workload levels were unsustainable - and detrimental to teachers and their pupils. In England and Wales, however - and despite recent government statements about intentions to reduce bureaucracy - teachers? workload remains largely the same.

We believe the Government should put pupils and teachers first, by reducing workload and freeing teachers to teach. The NUT has been campaigning alongside the NASUWT teaching union on this issue - and we've already had a positive effect in many schools, enabling teachers to drop unnecessary tasks which distract from the core business of teaching, and learning. We hope that parents will understand and support us in this, and that they'll look past the headlines to see that this isn't about teachers 'shirking'. It's about ensuring their workload is manageable, and that they have energy for the most important bit of their job - teaching children."

TwllBach Thu 04-Apr-13 10:40:16

I'm glad you've clarified your position on this, it was what I hoped was behind the headlines. Unfortunately, I think all it will do will further alienate the public because the headline just promotes the idea that teachers work fewer hours for a good wage and loads of holidays.

I say this fully aware of the reality of teaching, an NQT and a member of the NUT, who also supports the call for less paperwork and more focus on actual teaching.

whokilleddannylatimer Thu 04-Apr-13 10:56:20

Get rid of the paper work, the testing from age 5 and most of the national curriculum, allow teachers to teach to learn not teach to test rather than contact time.

I have a child who doesn't fit the NC box for learning and for her the education system has been a disaster for her.

cheesegirl Thu 04-Apr-13 12:24:30

I am proud member of the NUT and would like to applaud Christine along with the rest of the Executive for taking this bold step. I am contracted to work 2.5 days a week as a primary teacher, but end up working 4 long evenings on top of this, after my son has gone to bed, just to get the job done, and even then, I'm only doing the bare minimum - marking, assessing, planning and preparation. I have no time for all the extras: after-school clubs, stimulating displays, making resources, etc. I feel like I am working so hard just to achieve the bare minimum.
Something has to give.
Everyone keeps saying, we're all in this together - well we are - we should be fighting for better pay and working conditions for ALL, not just teachers. But people shouldn't condemn the NUT for trying to improve the conditions for their members - that's what everyone wants.
keep up the good work NUT.

TheDailyWail Thu 04-Apr-13 13:29:23

Actually 20 hours is still a lot. I am not a teacher but work in a school and recently my boss collapsed whilst speaking to me. They work so hard. My boss is at work at 7:30 every morning, is on duty at every lunch and goes home after me regularly. They rarely have a break, pastoral care comes first, there is usually someone who is needing help from my boss. They have very few hours where they are off timetable.

KateDillington Thu 04-Apr-13 14:27:09

I don't understand why the NUT have focused on reducing teaching hours, rather than reducing paperwork.

Why not say that paperwork must be reduced and target part of that instead? Why not say which paperwork is pointless and suggest boycotting this?

I've just been made redundant from the NHS. EVERYONE I know works at least 12 hours a day. If I wake in the night, I check my emails. If I send an email at 3am, most of the time, I'll get a reply within a few minutes. I have colleagues who only sleep 3 or 4 hours a night. Over the last few years, this seems to have become pretty normal in the NHS. But people are just grateful for a job and a pension these days.

School holidays are CONSIDERABLE and you don't have to check your emails all day during your holidays. In a lot of jobs, you are NEVER off-duty if you want to keep your job.

PhyllisDoris Thu 04-Apr-13 15:00:11

Shall we calculate teachers' working hours per year instead of per week, and see how that compares with people who do other jobs?
They do get an awful lot of time off to recuperate from their stressful weeks with long working days.

How about compromising by offering to reduce their daily working hours in return for working more weeks of the year?

lalaa Thu 04-Apr-13 15:20:56

I agree that the headline does the NUT no favours. I think you would have engendered more support if you'd pressed for a 40 hour week, rather than the current 50.
I'm a PGCE student (former marketeer) and parent. I think you are also on sticky ground if you categorise assessment as bureaucracy. I want to know how my daughter is progressing. I want to know that the teachers are assessing her progress and are addressing any issues as they come up. And I feel as though I would be doing children I teach a huge disservice if I wasn't assessing them, making adjustments to my teaching and planning accordingly to make sure that each one is learning, and addressing anything concerning that I spot as a result of that assessment immediately.
Fewer inflammatory statements and an eye on how it is for those not in the teaching profession might help you to gain a broad base of support from parents. But striking probably won't!

TheDailyWail Thu 04-Apr-13 16:38:55

There are also other issues - our teachers are being asked to do MORE admin tasks, tasks - our head teacher didn't replace one of our admin people so it's gone from a team of 3 to 2. And holidays... our teachers will be in over the Easter & Whitsun hols holding revision classes, they will also be in over August dealing with exam results and admission interviews.

TBF, I never fully appreciated how hard they worked until I worked in a school.

Xenia Thu 04-Apr-13 17:14:28

The bottom line is that people are queuing up for all jobs and there are many many more teachers than jobs and in that kind of climate it is pretty difficult to ask for shorter hours.

My daughter worked to 8am to 2am for two weeks recently. Obviously you go into teaching in part because the hours are much much easier than that. I take about 2 weeks of holiday a year and work on most of 7 days a week. Teachers have a very different life and much less pay.

PhyllisDoris Thu 04-Apr-13 18:48:10

Sorry. Can't feel sorry for teachers who go in for a few days at Whitsun and in August when I am doing a normal working day like everyone else.

clam Thu 04-Apr-13 19:05:18

Yes, but Phyllis you'll be being paid for that normal working day. Teachers are not paid for all those 13 weeks' holiday.

timidviper Thu 04-Apr-13 19:12:09

I think most professions are working harder and longer than ever before and am, quite frankly, getting sick of teachers whingeing as though they are worse off than everybody else. If it is so awful then step aside and let others have the jobs.

The idea of any profession having the audacity to ask for a reduction in working hours when so many people are out of work and families are struggling is amazing

PinkCanary Thu 04-Apr-13 19:28:52

As a TA (and prospective PGCE student) I'm fully aware of the realities of life inside a primary school. However I was previously a childminder, regularly child facing for 50 hours each week then undertaking a minimum 15 hours on the assessment, planning and administrative burden imposed on us by Ofsted and the DfE, in addition to CPD at weekends and evenings. All for less than minimum wage when unpaid time is taken into account. Currently, like many other TA's, i supplement this role with a second career as the job does not provide a living wage. Typically I work a 55 hour week all year round, so in effect I already work at least as hard as the teachers in my school. And I'm ashamed to admit that many teachers I know really have no comprehension of the real world.

Furthermore, having experienced the massive disruption of a job share classroom and the impact of other teachers covering PPA I really do think that for many schools, cutting pupil contact time would have such a negative effect on children. The value of continuity and developing a good relationship with the teacher cannot be disregarded when it comes to attainment.

Finally, budgets are already stretched to breaking point. Who's going to pay for all these extra hours to be covered? If you assume at least 2 hours a week per teacher that's almost a full time teacher needed on the payroll just for a single form entry school!

JudithOfThePascha Thu 04-Apr-13 19:31:45

I think it's an excellent idea. I speak as an ex-teacher who once loved her job but won't be going back because the hours/workload was increasingly ridiculous.

I won't be returning to this thread, though. I've already argued my case on MN this week and I just get too frustrated at the people who think they know how hard teachers work or how many hours they put it. These people usually don't believe me when I tell them I had to work every day during the holidays, apart from my actual holiday and Christmas. They claim that because there are other professions who also work such long hours, that teachers should just suck it up and not campaign for better working conditions.

I hope the campaign is successful but my hopes are not high.

whokilleddannylatimer Thu 04-Apr-13 19:35:00

Clam can I ask because no one answered me on other thread, if your annual wage is for example 23k PA are you saying that you don't get that 23k but get pro rata of that for 39 weeks? Or are you saying that you get paid that 23k for 39 weeks of work and therefore feel you are not paid holidays?

As a TA I got 13k pro rata which worked out on 30 hours at £187 a week but then I was only paid for 39 weeks and it was then divided by 12 to ensure I got a wage each month meaning I came out with £140 a week for 30 hours ( I did more) inc cover supervisor.

Is that how teachers work? So if you get paid 23k contract you only get 17000 ?

ilovemountains Thu 04-Apr-13 20:00:19

No, a teacher would get 23k in your example. Which makes the whole "we don't get paid for holidays" statement a bit daft in my opinion. Teaching is not a poorly paid profession anymore, after the first couple of years.

whokilleddannylatimer Thu 04-Apr-13 20:17:43

Blimey 23k over 39 weeks is a hefty wage if that's right.

chicaguapa Thu 04-Apr-13 20:30:26

23k over 39 weeks is a hefty wage if that's right

Is it? I work in HR for 44 weeks of the year and earn more than that. My job is a piece of piss. 9-5 Monday to Friday and I sometimes stay late if I want to. And I don't need to be a post-graduate to do it.

SirChenjin Thu 04-Apr-13 20:40:17

I have a number of friends who are teachers, both at primary and secondary level - none of them work through the holidays! They do a few (literally) days prep, but they make no bones about the fact that they love the long holidays and would fight tooth and nail to keep them.

I would suggest that instead of cutting teaching time (which I believe will raise questions about why we need teachers rather than TAs), I would suggest that the NUT fights to reduce paperwork and admin. Otherwise it looks like political posturing of the usual Unions v Tory kind.

whokilleddannylatimer Thu 04-Apr-13 20:46:53

Honestly yes I think it is seeing most teachers will be on more than that as that's the lower end of the scale. That's like £539 a week before tax??

I am not saying teachers don't deserve that I just don't think the NUT are going about it right way.

Teachers need to be allowed to teach, allowed the time they need to meet every Childs needs, not have to tick a billion boxes to prove they can.

I've worked in schools and have an idea, although neither schools were in on the scale teachers on here do and weren't in more than a day in holidays or before 8 or after 6.

But the average person with no experience is going to think that teachers actually are requesting to work 20 hours a week for £539.

To get other people who are struggling onside the NUT needs to do it in a way they understand. TELL people they want to work 40 hours instead of 50 and tell people the impact/difference for their children.

ravenAK Thu 04-Apr-13 20:48:48

I answered it on t'other thread, whokilled.

We're contracted to be available to work on 195 days. We are paid for those days, eg. a teacher doing supply will get salary/195 for each day worked. Teachers on contract get that salary in 12 monthly installments.

1265 hours, spread over those days, is 'directed time' & the HT can tell us what we should be doing during that time (teaching a specific subject to a specific group, attending a meeting or parents' evening etc).

We are additionally required to put in 'such reasonable additional hours as may be needed to enable the effective discharge of their professional duties'.

Some teachers work several hours most evenings, set aside one day at the weekend, or pull all-nighters at the weekend (this is my favoured option), some save up substantial tasks like marking a set of Controlled Assessments for the holidays (I'm doing this tomorrow & Monday, having organised childcare for my own dc so I can get it done in two days of concentrated work).

Most teachers crack on with the additional hours without too much chuntering, or give up & do something else, for the simple reason that if you don't, your teaching is shite. Oh & IME we mostly enjoy our jobs & want to do them well!

PollyEthelEileen Thu 04-Apr-13 20:51:09

NUT is an embarrassment to the profession. They can't decide whether teachers are hourly paid or are professionals.

If teaching is a profession, they have to suck it up like other professionals, not clock-in and clock-out.

They need to move into the real world and stop flying the red flag.

I say this as a teacher.

whokilleddannylatimer Thu 04-Apr-13 20:58:00

Thanks Raven , I missed your answer.
Am I right to say you would be happy with your wage if they took away all the red tape and let you teach? Is the problem with the admin rather than your wage?

ravenAK Thu 04-Apr-13 20:59:58

But that's what we do, Polly.

As most teachers on this & the other thread have said, we'd do our job better if we had fewer contact hours.

Whether it'd make enough of a difference to justify the expense of hiring more teachers is another thing - I don't think it's where I'd start, if I were the NUT. Cutting bullshit paperwork & meetings would make far more sense.

But it doesn't make the NUT an embarrassment that they're pointing out the truism that it's easier to deliver outstanding lessons if you teach fewer of them & spend longer preparing them...

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