The government has failed to tackle the “workload burden” many teachers face, it has been claimed, after a report found secondary school teachers in England have one of the highest workloads in the world.
More than half of secondary school teachers in England consider their job “unmanageable”, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Teaching and Learning International Survey found, and are working longer hours, for less pay and in a less satisfying job than those in 35 other countries.
Although they spend one hour per week less than their OECD counterparts on teaching, they are spending almost seven hours a week more on non-teaching tasks, such as lesson planning and marking.
The issues are not just limited to secondary school teachers: full-time primary school teachers worked an average of 52.1 hours per week, compared with the 39.4 hours a week worked by primary school teachers in Denmark and 32 hours in Turkey.
Part-time teachers were also working the equivalent of a full-time working week: 35.7 hours in primary education and 36.1 in secondary schools.
Teachers have also been asked to take on further responsibilities this week, when Theresa May revealed plans to train every new teacher to spot the signs of poor mental health in students.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the survey had revealed a “demoralised workforce” that did not have the resources to carry out its role to a high standard.
“The findings should act as a wake-up call for any future Prime Minister. The government must end teachers’ unsustainable workload by tackling the high-stakes school accountability system which is fuelling the long hours culture and driving teachers out of the profession,” she said.
“Teachers also need a significant pay rise to bring their salaries in line with professionals with comparable levels of responsibility.”
Bousted said schools needed more funding to provide teachers with the training and development they needed.
Although 97% of secondary school teachers in England took part in at least one professional development activity in the year prior to the survey, compared with an average of 94% across the OECD, there were areas their professional development was lacking. They expressed the highest need for training in teaching students with special needs than any other country, with the proportion working with at least a tenth of students with special educational needs the highest in the world.
Like most other countries in the OECD, teachers in England expressed a strong desire for development in advanced ICT skills.
Only 72% said the advantages of being a teacher outweighed the disadvantages, compared with 83% of teachers who answered the same question in 2013. Only 69% said they would still choose to work as a teacher if they could choose a career again (80% in 2013).
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “These findings reflect many of the frustrations that I heard from teachers and heads when I first took on the role of education secretary and underlines the importance of the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, that I launched in January of this year.
“We know that too many teachers are having to work too many hours each week on unnecessary tasks, which is why I have taken on a battle to reduce teachers’ workload so that they can focus on spending their time in the classroom doing what they do best – teaching.”
More than 2,000 teachers in primary and “lower secondary” schools took part in the survey. England did not take part in the upper secondary survey.