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Unfair workload?

(39 Posts)
clevername Sun 05-Feb-17 22:00:11

Hi all

I am an English teacher in a secondary school in an area that is selective (nearby grammar schools). Our school results weren't as good as we'd hoped last year and, as a result, things have been a bit tougher than before. Our system of measuring progress (assessments and reporting etc) changed this year and workload has been crazy because of this. The need for 'robust' progress data outweighs the need for robust teachers, it seems.

Anyway, English is obviously traditionally a subject with a heavy marking load but all of the above has meant that my department are absolutely drowning in marking and planning. It's always been difficult, and we've always taken lots home to do at the evenings and weekends but this year it has become totally unsustainable. We are all struggling and miserable because of it.

I appreciate that my experience is limited to my subject and that different subjects have different challenges but it is becoming clear that, in our particular situation, there are teachers in the school who are able to get their planning/marking work done in school hours and leave at a reasonable (early) time without taking any work home with them. We all get paid on the same pay scale and (more importantly, as far as I'm concerned) we all have the same P&P entitlement. In essence, we, in the English department, are expected to do a SHED LOAD more work and the sheer volume of this means we are doing an ENORMOUS amount in our 'home' time.

Now, I promise you that I'm not being deliberately inflammatory in asking this (I'm really not trying to start a staff room bunfight!) but I'd really like your perspectives/opinions as to whether this is fair? When I have spoken about this with people at school I get a lot of knowing nods and 'who'd be an English teacher' comments... but surely our higher workload should be acknowledged in more time to get stuff done?!

Sorry if I sound bitter (I probably am, to be fair!)...

Lapinlapin Sun 05-Feb-17 22:05:51

I agree with you. I've always thought that some subjects have a massively heavier marking burden than others, with English probably the worst.

It's not fair, but I've no idea what can be done about it. I believe that in some schools hods of core subjects get paid more, on the basis of large dept, more responsibility etc, but of course this doesn't filter down to the ordinary classroom teacher.

BossWitch Sun 05-Feb-17 22:07:47

I know of one private school near me where the English teachers get extra frees for precisely this reason.

Phantommagic Sun 05-Feb-17 22:10:43

Not just English. Humanities too. We have masses of marking and fewer staff too, so planning burden is great and we tend to juggle lots if classes because we see them once or twice only. I think workloads can be unfair though

leccybill Sun 05-Feb-17 22:15:50

I think English, History and RE has the biggest marking workload.
Maths the least maybe?
I teach MFL and I always think we work hardest actually in the classroom, where the teacher is the stimulus and there's very little independent work. We sometimes do 5-6 different tasks or activities in an hour so lots of planning.

Sympathies from me, yes I think you should get more free time.

SleepWhatSleep1 Sun 05-Feb-17 22:18:02

There are swings and roundabouts in every subject though and it would be difficult to pin it down fairly. But yes you're right. I've always thought I would hate to teach. English or re purely on the marking load.

SleepWhatSleep1 Sun 05-Feb-17 22:18:41

PE or art the least, surely?

Thegiantofillinois Sun 05-Feb-17 22:22:12

Just enjoy it while it lasts. Reckon we're all getting fired in August when the results come out.grin And anyway, pe and drama teachers work much harder cos they do after school stuff (after intervention, of course). halo

chosenone Sun 05-Feb-17 22:26:48

PE do loads of extra curricular though! At our school there are clubs and or fixtures every day and loads of weekend events, regional and national comps for athletics, basketball etc. Our Art dept do fine art, 3 D , and Photography up to GCSE equally loads of marking and extra sessions to finish work. I teach Drama which people seem to either think is a doss or complete chaos. Not much marking in KS3 but a lot in GCSE. Plus a huge amount of extra curricular at certain times of the year. Practical lessons can be exhausting too. However, OP maybe your English dept needs to lool at a sensible, workable marking policy

clevername Sun 05-Feb-17 22:30:12

Thanks guys.
It's a relief to know that it's not just bitterness clouding my judgement and I'm not being massively unreasonable!

I've had experience of teaching a project-based curriculum at KS3 too, so I know about humanities' marking load as well.

I honestly think that it should be acknowledged and actioned upon rather than just accepted, though. I can see that it might be a difficult thing to do (and it might rub some people up the wrong way) but it's so important. I'm really lucky to work in an amazing department where we all try our best and pull our weight but this is ridiculous!

redcaryellowcar Sun 05-Feb-17 22:32:04

I used to teach pe and whilst extra curricular stuff takes up time after school, I can completely appreciate that the volume of English marking must be vast. I really feel and fear that there may be serious problems ahead in all areas of education if workload isn't addressed soon.

CauliflowerSqueeze Sun 05-Feb-17 22:33:25

You're absolutely right OP.
And I agree with leccy. MFL requires more preparation but marking is far far less.

I think Art as well for best workload and not having to brave the cold/ the excuse notes / the smelly changing rooms. If I was artistic I would LOVE that job!

clevername Sun 05-Feb-17 22:40:06

PE don't actually have many fixtures, at our school anyway. In fact, one of the deputy heads (a former PE teacher) said as much to me - 'it used to be much harder for them. It's a much easier job now'!!

And drama is one of the subjects at our school that do the leaving early with no work! But I think that's because they just happen to have very light timetables for whatever reason.

I get that other subjects, especially the arts, have intense marking at times but it's consistently intense throughout the year in English. And I know that one dept in my school were compensated for a day of GCSE coursework marking during the Easter holidays by a day off in lieu! (admittedly this was a couple of years ago, not sure if it's standard practice nowadays)

clevername Sun 05-Feb-17 22:45:30

I actually read a thread on mumsnet recently about people who loved their jobs. A music teacher said how amazing her job was (she commented on the occasional need to attend concerts but that she loved doing this!) and I got all green-eyed. envy

I do actually love my job too but all the masses of shit to do makes it hard to remember this fact a lot of some of the time

rollonthesummer Sun 05-Feb-17 22:46:18

Drama, music and PE teachers do shedloads of out of hours stuff, but I do agree with you; I wouldn't want the marking load of an English teacher.

Phantommagic Mon 06-Feb-17 05:26:53

Size of department makes a difference too though. Fewer staff means less shared workload. More classes means more reports, parents to see, more classes data input etc. Humanities are certainly not project based in any school I've known and tend to produce about three pieces of writing per week.

teacher54321 Mon 06-Feb-17 18:13:15

Ooh I wonder if I was the music teacher who said she loved her job?! Could have been me, as I generally and genuinely do smile.

The marking workload of English and other essay subjects is horrific and I don't know how you do it. However as an MFL teacher said upthread every single activity in my lessons is teacher led, so it's physically absolutely exhausting. I am also under a huge amount of pressure for things like school productions, speech day, the carol service etc. I arrange all those events entirely by myself as a single person department and they take an enormous amount of planning and time, as well as rehearsals etc. These very public events are very very stressful as the whole school and parent community are watching (and judging) Report writing is also nightmarish because I teach everyone in the whole school...

MrsGuyOfGisbo Mon 06-Feb-17 20:37:28

Have seen lots of schools depts. etc.
Maths is easiest teacher workload - marking straightforward, can be peer-marked, no trips or extra-curricular. Also, parents understand the value so there is home support mostly. Pressure on results though, like English.
Drama, PE, Music, massive extra-curricular, lots of organisation and energy required.
MFL - teaching four skills per lesson, expected to be entertainers, SLT and Ofsted expecting kids to be spontaneously speaking language, and usually requirement to teach more than one language and use that language fluently in class all the time. Oral exams to arrange and mark. Parents alternately seeing languages as a waste of time, or expecting Jayden and Tiiiiia-Jayyyne speak Mandarin fluently by their second lesson so they can walk into a cushy job.
Different subjects, different pressures, English by no means the greatest workload (and I teach English).
The workload prize goes to Primary...

user1484226561 Mon 06-Feb-17 20:54:09

I think different subjects have different types of workload.

The children don't do MORE work in an English lesson, than a maths lesson, they do the same amount, but the format is different.

English teachers don't ever have to get their calculators out and check the maths behind EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER ON THE PAGE! - which can happen in maths, so half a page marked like that can take longer than 20 pages of sentences! ( particularly when the whole class will have done different calculations)

In science, we do risk assessments, requisitions and practical try outs, not necessarily for every lesson, but for more than half of them. You have to retry most practicals most of the time, for example, doing a hydrogen peroxide and celery lesson toady, had to check what results the class should expect, so I could plan their results table for them. Last week's results table no good, as it has to be specific to THIS batch of hydrogen peroxide, and THIS exact level of freshness of celery.

A lot of planning of science lessons is quite complicated, actually, and we spend a lot of time discussing, requesting, negotiating, brainstorming, compromising etc with technicians. And we can't always have what we thought we were getting, so replanning features quite heavily in the workload too, for example told yesterday no calcium carbonate powder was left for today, so had to plan completely different iron extraction practical overnight....

In science we have to keep up to date with the constantly changing and evolving subject, particularly for courses such as BTEC, where last years understanding, of Saturn, for example, is simply not good enough for this year's assignments. I don't think discussions on the issues found in Mcbeth are going to evolve as fast as discussions on sellafield, etc.

There are a lot of "hidden extras" in the workload of a science teacher, and I'm sure there are for other subjects too. We have astronomy units that can only be taught before or after school, for example, as they need darkness, and other things.

We have a lot of maths based work, and a lot of literacy based work, and personally I find the maths based work easier to mark, but not everyone does.

leccybill Mon 06-Feb-17 21:48:50

Wow, I never considered all of that about Science, you're absolutely right though, that is very demanding.

Just another point about MFL (sorry!)...teaching job interviews often contain an element spoken in the foreign language, sometimes two, sometimes even in two languages alternating questions (that was funhmm) but I haven't heard of any PE teachers being asked to do 20 press ups in an interview or any mathematicians being asked a few quickfire long division questions...

DesolateWaist Mon 06-Feb-17 21:55:44

You lot can all come and teach reception....................planning 400million different activities every day. Observations that need to be assessed every night. Loads of resources that need making all the time.
And shit, piss and snot. Lots and lots of snot.................... <runs away giggling>

DesolateWaist Mon 06-Feb-17 21:57:10

doing a hydrogen peroxide and celery lesson toady,

What can you do with hydrogen peroxide and celery? I have both in the house!

user1484226561 Tue 07-Feb-17 04:52:53

its just an experiment comparing inorganic catalysysts and enzymes.... we've got a new spectrometer we all need an hour and a half of training on tonight......

but as I said, different subjects have different types of workload, I guess we all feel hard done by at times!

I've never heard that about interviews. Is it just standard interview questions, in a different language, so you need to know all the those laughable "buzzwords" from the UK education system in two other languages as well shockThat must be weird.

The only science I remember being asked about in any interview recently was how I would approach creationism and evolution with Christian students.

SuffolkingGrand Tue 07-Feb-17 06:07:14

As an MFL teacher I've been interviewed in two langs and the lesson was in a third.... None of these languages were English.

Every subject has its own highs and lows for planning, prep and marking. Let's share and support with techniques and tricks rather than compare!

The 5 Minute Lesson Plan is awesome and was transformational to my own teaching when I first started using it a few years ago. Google it - there are various versions but it's the Teachers Toolkit one which is the best, I think.

Also the hashtag #5aday or #teacher5aday (may need to check that) is a really good reminder to make sure you do at least 5 nice things for yourself each day, especially when things are tricky/heavy/intense at school.

fourcorneredcircle Tue 07-Feb-17 10:02:22

user I think that the questions I've been asked to answer in French etc. Have been about my experiences, or what I enjoy about teaching languages etc. Rather than "buzz word" or deep educational insights.

I always forget what I've been asked at interview... apart from the standard "how did that lesson go do you think" opener, "why this school/role" filler and child protection closer!

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