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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Teachers demand workload action
The review followed industrial action by teachers
A culture of long hours and bureaucracy for teachers will need to be overhauled, say unions responding to a review into teachers' workload.

An interim report from the review has confirmed that many teachers are working over 50 hours a week in term time - with some exceeding 60 hours.

Although as an annual average, teachers do not work longer than other comparable professions, the report found that in term time teachers faced more "intensive" hours than "most other occupations".

Teachers are looking for effective intervention. Gimmicks and unenforceable guidance will not ... assuage the deep disillusionment and dissatisfaction rife in the profession

Chris Keates, NASUWT
The preliminary findings are made in a review of workload, agreed as part of the settlement ending industrial action by teachers' unions in the spring.

And now unions are calling for the next stage of the review to ensure that term-time hours can be sharply reduced.

Teachers' unions have long complained that staff were suffering from over-work, with a combination of paperwork, staff shortages and government initiatives leading to a wave of stress, ill-health and early retirement.

In place of what they claim is an overload, teachers are calling for a 35-hour working week.

The independent review, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, was a condition of teachers' suspending a dispute which had forced some schools onto a four-day week.

Among the practical ways of reducing workload under consideration are:

  • passing on non-teaching tasks to administrative staff

  • making greater use of new technology

  • increase planning time for teachers

  • examine the organisation of schools where there appears to be less of a problem

  • the government should consider the staffing implications of reforms

The government, local authorities and teachers' unions have co-operated in the independent study of how teachers work.

This first stage of the review follows a study of 50 schools - and there will now be evidence gathered in a further 50 schools.

The School Standards Minister, Stephen Timms, said the next phase of the review would be to find "practical solutions" to problems with teachers' workload.

"In particular, it will be useful to explore why workload appears to be managed more effectively in some schools rather than others."

And he repeated the government's commitment to recruit an extra 10,000 teachers in the next five years.

Union leaders have welcomed the review's confirmation that there are difficulties with a work overload - but they are demanding action rather than "gimmicks" in response.

"Teachers are looking for effective intervention. Gimmicks and unenforceable guidance will not ... assuage the deep disillusionment and dissatisfaction rife in the profession," said Chris Keates of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

"The deficiencies of the teacher's contract must be tackled, including setting an overall limit to the working week."

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the significance of the interim report was that the pay body, the School Teachers Review Body, was now specifically directed to consider the issue of workload.

But he warned the government not to use this process as a "foot-dragging" exercise.

Chris Keates, deputy Gen Sec of NASUWT
"We're optimistic that we can build on this report"
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"Everyone agrees teachers have a heavy workload"
See also:

13 Apr 01 | Education
Teachers' workload to be reviewed
18 Apr 01 | Education
Unions unite over 35-hour week
01 May 01 | Education
Study into how teachers work
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