Workload reduction and well-being support needs to become a priority for teachers once the pandemic ends, suggests a new report.
Teachers work on average around 47 hours in a normal week, data from the Labour Force Survey shows, compared to 41 hours for similar professionals.
There was a brief reduction in working hours in the first lockdown in Spring 2020, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) reports, dropping to around 40 hours. This was at a time when teachers were working at home with schools having been forced closed.
At this time, teachers and schools were only just getting to grips with online learning, with teaching hours cut to allow for a period of adaptation. Whilst teachers might have been working fewer hours, many would have had to balance teaching with childcare and other caring responsibilities, the report points out.
The slight easing of workload didn’t last long, however, with working hours rising again to pre-pandemic levels – at around 46 hours per week – once schools fully re-opened in September.
NFER added that this was “significantly more hours on average than the 42 reported by full-time similar professionals during the same period”.
According to the LFS, in autumn 2020 more than half (55%) of full-time teachers felt they were working too many hours, compared with 38% in similar professions.
An increase in staff absences at this time, as a direct result of Covid-19 – such as staff self-isolating due to contracting coronavirus or through being a close contact of a positive case – put an extra strain on teachers.
An NFER survey from the autumn term showed that as many as one in 10 of primary school staff were unable to work at any one time, rising to 13% of the secondary teacher workforce.
The NFER said that it was unsustainable for teachers to be working the long hours which have become the norm within the industry, calling on the government to make workload reduction and well-being support a priority post-pandemic.