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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."

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 20:08:17

Obviously, I am not a maths teacher (although am a director of studies). My direct experience of altering schemes of work has not been that hard. It is more a case of moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

In our most recent GCSE change, our exam board published mapping documents that enabled us to quickly shuffle lessons without rewriting from scratch.

We have found that it is quite effective to divide everything up around the department and have every teacher responsible for producing parts of schemes of work. It is also very handy for personal development, and "many hands make light work". I don't know if this kind of behaviour is verboten in burgundy-book land, and whether you can only step forward to the plate if you have a TLR point.

messybedhead Fri 05-Apr-13 23:03:47

I wasn't having a go at anyone here in this thread.

It's just that a lot of the teachers in my school ( we are mid to late twenties/ early thirties) realise that we've got it quite good. Okay we all have a moan but at the end of the day, we all appreciate that working a normal 9-5 job wouldn't be as rewarding emotionally or financially.

I'm not sure if 'contented teachers club' is a dig at me? I hope not as actually I'm a very good teacher who works very hard, but ultimately it's just my job.

noblegiraffe Fri 05-Apr-13 23:20:39

Our exam board couldn't even write a textbook with things in the right place (seriously, they had to give us a revised edition free of charge the next year) so I wouldn't trust them to write a scheme of work. All the double checking takes time. And preparing to teach it takes more time.
And shuffling around topics means changing end of term assessments. This is a complete pain in the arse - everyone hates writing tests! It is all so completely unnecessary. If they made all the changes all at once, it wouldn't be such a waste of our time, to constantly rewrite stuff.

For example: I remember when they changed to two tier one year, then dropped coursework the next. When they had coursework, the examined stuff was called modules 2,3 and 4. When coursework was dropped, the modules stayed pretty much the same but were called 1,2 and 3. The textbooks (and resources) for the new two tier exam had the wrong module names for all but the first year they were used. Very confusing for students, and totally ridiculous for an expensive textbook to be out of date after 1 year. If they'd changed to two tier and dropped coursework the same year, it would have been fine.

Xenia Sat 06-Apr-13 09:42:11

I update quite a few books for pay (not school books) and it is quite common that publishers cannot find anyone prepared to do it when there are lots of changes. Very difficult and hard work. Only people supporting as many children as I have alone will take it on....

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