Concern as teachers' working hours top 55 a week with headteachers clocking up more than 63


A Department for Education workload study has revealed the huge hours that teachers and heads work every week, many of them in the evening or at weekends. Unions have warned that current working hours are ‘ simply unsustainable’. Pete Henshaw reports.


Secondary school teachers are working an average of more than 55 hours a week, while headteachers are putting in more than 63, a Department for Education (DfE) workload survey has revealed.

It also finds that a fifth of the working week for both teachers and heads is spent working before 8am and after 6pm on weekdays or at weekends.

The findings were released by the DfE on Friday (February 28) and coincided with research from the Work Your Proper Hours Day campaign showing that 54 per cent of teachers are now working unpaid overtime – the most of any profession – with those working overtime putting in an average of 12 hours extra a week.

Teaching unions this week said the hours being put in by the profession were unacceptable and part of the reason that two in five teachers currently quit within the first five years.

The DfE study saw 1,004 professionals working in leadership and teaching roles across primary and secondary schools completing a diary and questionnaire in March of last year.

A breakdown of the figures show that secondary teachers in maintained schools work 55.7 hours a week while academy teachers work 55.2 hours. Within this, maintained teachers spent 19.6 hours teaching, compared to 20.2 hours for academy teachers.

Maintained teachers also spent 8.5 hours on lesson planning and preparing for tests and 9.4 hours on assessing and marking pupils’ work and writing reports. This compares with 8.2 and 8.7 hours respectively for academy teachers.

Non-teaching contact with pupils and parents, covering for absent colleagues, registration time and detentions, meanwhile, took up 7.8 hours for maintained teachers and 6.1 hours for academy teachers.

Elsewhere, 44 per cent of deputies and teachers said they are spending more time on “unnecessary and unnecessarily bureaucratic tasks” now than a year ago – 42 per cent said it was the same, and 4.8 per cent said it had reduced. For heads, 36 per cent said they spend more time on these tasks now, 36 per cent said it was the same and nine per cent said it had decreased. 

The most common reason cited for the increase in bureaucracy for heads was Ofsted changes (20 per cent), followed by preparation for inspection (17 per cent). Other reasons included general increases in workload (16 per cent), policy changes (13 per cent), and record-keeping (11 per cent).

For teachers and deputies, preparation for Ofsted was also the most common reason (16 per cent), followed by an increase in paperwork (15 per cent), assessments (12 per cent), and data collection and reporting (10 per cent).

The findings echoed figures from the Work Your Proper Hours Day campaign showing that around 54 per cent of teachers now work unpaid overtime, up from 52 per cent last year. The average overtime worked is 12 hours extra a week, up from 11.1 hours last year.

Last year, teachers were ranked as the third most likely profession to put in unpaid overtime, but have now taken over the top spot.

Work Your Proper Hours Day is the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime would start getting paid if they did all unpaid hours at the start of the year. This year it fell on Friday (February 28).

The DfE is currently engaged in a series of meetings with the trade unions to discuss their concerns and these findings would almost certainly have been raised at this week’s meeting, which took place yesterday, (Wednesday, March 5).

Martin Freedman, director of economic strategy and negotiation at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Under this government, teachers now work longer hours than ever before, which includes the equivalent of one day a week working in the evenings and at weekends. These figures expose Michael Gove’s claim that this country’s educational achievements would be improved if only teachers worked longer as utter rubbish.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the figures vindicated the joint campaign of industrial action that the union is undertaking alongside the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

She said: “All of the evidence demonstrates that the problem of excessive workload and working hours of teachers needs to be urgently responded to by the secretary of state. These figures show that (teachers) are being scandalously exploited and this excessive workload will have a detrimental impact on the quality of education provided to young people.”

NUT chief Christine Blower, said the working hours were “simply unsustainable”. 

She added: “No-one enters the profession expecting 9 to 5, but working in excess of 55 hours a week and during holidays is entirely unacceptable. 

“Many teachers feel totally overwhelmed and it is hardly surprising that two-in-five leave the profession after their first five years and morale is at an all-time low.”

The National Association of Head Teachers said the survey echoed their own research. General secretary Russell Hobby added: “The concerns surrounding unnecessary bureaucracy show that despite the government’s claims that it is committed to promoting efficiency and doing away with endless form-filling, this is failing to materialise on the ground. 

“Also of concern is the burden of Ofsted inspections. Of course schools should be accountable for the service they provide but if the inspection process is becoming an end in itself – replacing time spent with pupils with form-filling – then something is very wrong.”


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