‘Radical action’ needed to reduce teachers’ hours

Teachers have worked an average of 46 to 49 hours a week for many years, according to a study by University College London.

The study, which looked at data from more than 40,000 primary and secondary teachers in England, found that their working hours had remained relatively stable over the past 25 years – meaning “radical action” would be needed to reduce them.

Teachers took part in four different surveys between 1992 and 2017. UCL’s analysis revealed that primary school teachers worked between 47 and 49 hours a week “without any substantial change”. Secondary school teachers’ hours were between 46 and 48 hours.

UCL’s study also found that a quarter of teachers work more than 59 hours a week and a tenth work more than 65 hours. Forty percent said that they “usually” work in the evening, 10% work at the weekend and 7% at night.

The report said that policy initiatives brought in by education secretaries had proven “insufficient for achieving a reduction in the total number of hours worked”. Teachers in England work an average of eight hours more than their counterparts in other industrialised countries, it found.

The researchers added: “Our research reveals that working hours have been at the present high levels for many years, which suggests perhaps that they will be more difficult to shift than previously anticipated.”

They argued that long hours were unlikely to be the only issue influencing poor teacher retention, saying: “Policymakers might therefore be better off focusing on other, better evidenced approaches to improving retention, such as increasing teacher pay, improving school leadership and improving working conditions.”

Lead report author Professor John Jerrim said it was important to continue to monitor teachers’ working hours closely, but argued that “bolder plans are needed” to help reduce them.

The Department of Education responded that it was making “concerted efforts” to reduce teachers’ workload and reiterated plans to boost starting salaries over the next three years.

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