Teachers in England work longer hours than the rest of the world - but not in the classroom


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The Independent Online

Teachers in England work longer hours than the rest of the world but spend less time in the classroom than in other countries, says a major international study.

They work on average 46 hours a week, but only 20 of them are spent in the classroom, according to the latest TALIS (Teacher And Learning International Survey) published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The findings, which compare statistics from 34 countries worldwide, sparked fury from teachers’ leaders who claimed their members were being worn down by bureaucracy.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “A few straightforward facts stand out. Teachers in England work harder than teachers in other countries. They are also asked to more administration, despite four years of a Government pledged to reducing bureaucracy.

“The all-pervasive effects of high-stakes accountability can be felt here. Ironically, given the importance of teacher quality, our system may be limiting standards rather than raising them. It is certainly the case that a large number of head teachers see Government policy as part of the problem not part of the solution.”

The figures show that English teachers work around nine hours a week more than the average for the rest of the world, but when it comes to time spent in the classroom they spend only one hour a week more than the average and less than some nations.

An analysis of the findings by London University’s Institute of Education, said: “The study confirms working hours for teachers in England are amongst the highest at 46 hours a week, and nine hours more than the average. Only teachers in Alberta, Singapore and Japan work longer.

“Yet, despite having greater numbers of teaching assistants and administrative staff, teachers in England spend only 20 hours of their long working week on face-to-face teaching time, which is close to the national average.”

The Department for Education insisted it had given schools more freedom through its free schools and academies programme to run their own affairs.

“We are taking power away from politicians and bureaucrats and handing it to teachers,” said a spokesperson. “After all, they’re the ones who know their pupils best and they should be trusted to get on with the job, free from interference.”

Ian Bauckham, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, pointed out that the data related to 2012, only two years after the Coalition Government took office.

However, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “It is clear from the survey that although teachers love their profession, the workload is unmanageable, accountability systems add unnecessary pressure and they are underpaid for the work they do.”

The report also found that 21 per cent of teachers in England said they had to wait quite a long time at the beginning of the lesson for their pupils to settle down.

However, the Institute of Education’s analysis concluded: “With over a fifth of teachers agreeing or strongly agreeing that there was a lot of disruptive noise in the lesson and 28 per cent saying that they lose much time due to student interruptions, it is clear that classroom climate was far from ideal in a substantial minority of the lessons surveyed.”

The survey also showed classroom climate was often better in independent schools than state schools or academies. In addition, only 35 per cent of teachers in England felt their job was valued by society, though this compared to 31 per cent internationally.