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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."

ravenAK Thu 04-Apr-13 21:03:03

I'm quite happy with my wage & I absolutely love my job, whokilled smile.

I'd like a bit less barracking for myself & my colleagues from the public, the current government & Michael Gove's Ofsted Dementors, but I daresay I shall ride it out!

& yes, it's the red tape & evidencing things I do in time that should be spent doing them that sucks some of the joy out of it.

SuffolkNWhat Thu 04-Apr-13 22:55:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

chicaguapa Fri 05-Apr-13 00:50:16

Question for MNHQ: Why have you called this thread what you have and what message do you think that conveys to people who don't open it and bother spending the time reading the blog?

Do you feel the 'headline' misrepresents the crux of what the NUT are asking for and is supporting the misconception that teachers are lazy?

Could I suggest Guest blog: NUT chief, on why they believe the Government should reduce workloads and free teachers to teach. What do you think? This words appear in the blog so I haven't made them up.

bigTillyMint Fri 05-Apr-13 01:03:48

As someone else said, it's not the teaching hours that are the problem, it's the paperwork and pressure from above on results and the forcing square pegs into round holes that is the issue.

Arisbottle Fri 05-Apr-13 10:06:01

Is all this paperwork a primary thing? I have never understood what people mean by all the paperwork.

I think a 20 hour teaching week is a sensible start , not really that big of a deal though - most mainscale teachers teach around 22 hours a week , do they not.

In marking and follow up alone , I would say lesson creates at least an hour of work . So that is a 40 hour week just on teaching and marking - minimum.

In reality I am not sure how taking away two hours of teaching would dent my 80 hour week to a point that I would notice and make all the flak worthwhile.

I do think though that full teaching days usually mean that at least one class loses out.

moondog Fri 05-Apr-13 10:10:27

I look forward to a blog from Michael Gove, which, judging by Mumsnet's increasingly apparent lefty agenda, isn't going to happen soon.

Christine Blower is a fool and as Polly says, her ridiculous union discredits teachers and teaching. This is the woman who fights tooth and nail against Phonics and yet has openly admitted that she doesn't even know what it is.

I agree-teachers should be freed up (like most public servants, including myself) from the ridiculous quantity of paperwork they have to do. I was a school governer for a while and remain incredulous at how staff were constantly taken away from ther most important part of the job, namely face to face contact.

I don't even bother reading my children's school reports, generated as they are by a computer programme.

Xenia Fri 05-Apr-13 11:57:47

I am sure most parents would like teachers to have less paperwork. A short comment which could be emailed by each teacher in each subject in two of the terms with grades (secondary) for attainment in exams is enough. Work obviously needs to be marked. I am not sure what else is really needed.

noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 13:13:37

As a maths teacher (and probably true for the other core subjects) one of the major generators of workload is the constant changing of exams due to tinkering by politicians. It seems every time we get a new education secretary we get a new maths GCSE. 3 tier, 2 tier, coursework, no coursework, functional maths as a separate exam, functional maths integrated into the main exam, modular, linear and so on. And that's just the last 8 years.
Each change requires a new scheme of work - these take ages to write. New end of term tests to go with the new scheme of work, including self assessment sheets for students. First time of teaching a new scheme of work (which is pretty much every year at the moment) needs careful monitoring to ensure enough time is given to each topic, that the tests are appropriate, that topics are taught in a sensible order, that everything is covered.

And maths is a subject where the content doesn't actually change. Pythagoras is always Pythagoras. I dread to think how it must be for subjects like English where the texts change, or science where approaches come in and out of fashion.

Instead of a reduction in teaching hours (although that would be nice) I would like to see a cross-party commitment to not making any changes to a new curriculum to give the changes time to bed down.
If they wanted to overhaul maths GCSE completely and implement, say, the excellent suggestions made in the Carol Vorderman maths review (Tory commissioned, yet inexplicably ignored despite a surprisingly warm reception from maths teachers), then that would be fine, so long as they then left maths alone for a few years.

messybedhead Fri 05-Apr-13 14:52:05

Public perception of teachers is bad enough without this.

A lot of teachers work 8-4, don't complain, relax during the holidays and still manage to get their children to meet or exceed their targets.

The ones who work 7-6 and then all night, and then moan constantly about their job, are few and far between.

There is paperwork involved, such as planning lessons, doing assessments, or setting targets for children with additional needs. I can't really see how these can or should be reduced. Some schools expect a lot more in terms of paperwork, but tbh you can't blame the govt for that.

I'm a teacher who went into teaching as a parent, for decent pay and good holidays. I have not been disappointed.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 15:05:07

Welcome to the Contented Teacher Club, messy

Xenia Fri 05-Apr-13 15:20:34

I suspect (not a teacher but they are in the family - my mother and my children's father) that once you get going and get experience the work load reduces but all these stupid constant changes seem ridiculous to me from the outside in. It is as if nothing ever just stays the same so people get used to it.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 16:38:58

In my subject, changes seem to happen every 5 years. They are not major content changes - just little tweaks here and there. And changes to the examinations. The exam board is pretty good at mapping the changes.

We need some change to stay current; I don't think every five years is unreasonable.

noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 16:55:31

What subject do you teach, Polly? A change every five years would be fine. At the moment in maths it's changing pretty much every year. We buy new textbooks only for them to be out of date the next year, it's ridiculous, and they're rubbish quality too because they have to be churned out so quickly. I do wonder how much Pearsons donate to the political parties because they must be making a fortune.
And schools don't get any extra money to manage these changes either.

It is very dispiriting putting the effort into writing a scheme of work knowing it's going to get hardly any use.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 16:57:39


noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 17:10:49

BTEC has just changed hasn't it? To include an exam? And controlled assessments are fairly new. I know managing the introduction of triple science was quite tricky to manage, that wasn't that long ago was it? And the change to examining evidence instead of learning facts?

I got the impression from the science department at my school that they have to run just to stay in the same place.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 17:29:53

We don't teach BTEC, so I don't know about that.

The last GCSE course had a five-year shelf life. The current one is in its second year, so the first cohort are about to do their GCSEs. The assessment has changed on the current course (modular to linear) but this doesn't affect teaching. A-level courses have been in place since 2008, and the next set will start in 2014.

The current Year 11s are the guinea pig year. They are the first cohort with current GCSEs, and also the first ones to be exposed to new KS3 courses. They won't be the first for A-levels though.

It seems that we only deal with one major change in any given year. I think this is manageable, tbh.

Controlled Assessments are just going back to what we had before the IAA/ISAs from the last set of GCSEs. There should plenty of experience within a department to handle this change with ease.

noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 17:44:56

No, one major change per year is ridiculous. It's tinkering, and if there was any sort of coherent plan for education instead of what the current education secretary reckons is a good idea, it wouldn't happen.

Education needs to be taken out of the hands of politicians.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 17:47:57

It's not a major change for each year group or course. As I said, changes to any specific course happens about every 5 years. What is wrong with that?

I certainly wouldn't want to change everything on the same five year cycle. That would be very onerous indeed during that year. Much better to spread out the work.

noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 17:59:53

Well that's great for science GCSE (although I don't believe the changes have been as painless as you make out), maths GCSE has changed almost every year I've been teaching. The changes have also meant trickle down changes have needed to be made at KS3 to prepare.

In contrast, maths A-level hasn't changed since 2006. It has been brilliant, all the teachers are real experts on the course. But of course that will all change soon too.

SuffolkNWhat Fri 05-Apr-13 18:32:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

racheyp Fri 05-Apr-13 18:51:44

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 19:47:40

Well, I haven't been overly-fazed by the changes.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 19:48:38

I teach a core subject and go off-piste rather a lot too. smile

Arisbottle Fri 05-Apr-13 19:52:10

Messy the hours you quoted were mine and I very clearly said, again and again that I am not moaning.

Like you I went into teaching for the holidays and have not been disappointed .

noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 19:59:40

It's not about being fazed by the changes, teachers are nothing if not adaptable. It's about the amount of work that is generated by them. My department seems to be constantly writing new schemes of work and assessments, while simultaneously hearing politicians on BBC Breakfast announce that it's going to all be different again next year.

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