Teachers want to be professionals – so why complain about professional hours?

Teachers in England work longer hours than almost anywhere else in the world, according to new analysis.

The study found secondary school teachers work an average of 48.2 hours per week, with one in five working 60 hours or more – 12 hours above legal limits set by the European Union.

50 hour weeks are pretty standard among the professional classes, aren’t they?

60 thoughts on “Teachers want to be professionals – so why complain about professional hours?”

  1. “Teachers in England work longer hours than almost anywhere else in the world, according to new analysis.”

    So not the most in the world then. Could do better – see me.
    And how much more time would they have if they cut out their PC crap?

  2. 48.2 hours a week during term-time would equate to around 39 hours a week averaged over a normal work year.

  3. Is this data supplied by teachers themselves or gathered independently?

    I suspect it’s the former and thus utterly worthless material from a group of people who consistently see themselves as being put-upon when the truth is that a great many of them are no more than ineffectual Group 4 personnel for children.

  4. Don’t forget the long holidays when most of us have to work.
    I’d seriously maim for early July to almost mid September off.

  5. 50 hour weeks are pretty standard among the professional classes, aren’t they?

    I know plenty of engineers, IT people, managers etc who work 50 hours. They are also paid a lot more than teachers.

    Pete: and 37.5 hours per week, which is what most Kiwis who work “40 hours” actually work, averaged over the weeks they actually work is 35 hours a week. Or do you think other people don’t have holidays?

    I’m a high school teacher. I reckon I put in 50 hour weeks for about half the year, much of the rest about 40 hours, but there are also times during exam weeks etc when it is a lot less. I work only about 20 hours a week during most of my “holidays”. I’d have about 4 weeks of pure holiday. To me that is one of the bonuses of the job — you get to alternate properly busy with properly slack.

    And how much more time would they have if they cut out their PC crap?

    Nothing. PC crap doesn’t take time (although it is very wearisome).

    What sucks up the time of British teachers, which other countries don’t have, is crazy mad marking schedules. I look at the amount of marking my British colleagues do and I can see why they leave. I mark no more than two hours a week outside school hours, although being a Maths teacher does help there. And my marking is simple yes/no, not complicated by stupid feedback systems. I never — and I do mean never — mark my students’ books. It’s a complete waste of time.

  6. I look at the amount of marking my British colleagues do and I can see why they leave.

    Yes, British teachers are so thick that they complain bitterly about government-driven targets and practices, but if you mildly suggest that perhaps the government should step back from education delivery they go apeshit and insist the government must play a central role.

  7. Ditto for the NHS and the junior doctors: they complained bitterly and threatened to strike over heavy-handed political directives while insisting at the same time that the whole system ought to remain run by politicians.

    Of course, what they want is for themselves to run everything while the taxpayer picks up the bill and has no say in the matter. As usual.

  8. “Yes, British teachers are so thick that they complain bitterly about government-driven targets and practices, but if you mildly suggest that perhaps the government should step back from education delivery they go apeshit and insist the government must play a central role.”

    Plus they whine constantly about pay yet will die in a ditch defending the current system of what is an effective monopsony.

  9. Years ago I was a young academic; we had a visit from a school party. Said the chemistry teacher “I don’t envy you your salary”. I replied “I do envy you your hours.” I suspect few chemistry teachers leave the lab at 10.00 – 11.00 p.m. Few, at least in state schools, pitch up on Saturday mornings either. Nor on Sundays.

  10. 50 hour weeks are pretty standard among the professional classes, aren’t they?

    Around here 50 hour weeks are *short ones* for the blue collar. Gotta stack that OT.

  11. Also – they work 48ish hours a week on average. When school is in session.

    Which is what, 9 months out of the year? With 2 months worth of holidays and ‘teacher conference’ half-days off spread out among that.

  12. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “but if you mildly suggest that perhaps the government should step back from education delivery they go apeshit and insist the government must play a central role.”

    Revealed preferences. They know they are not providing a service worthy of their salary. Whatever they claim.

    dearieme – “Few, at least in state schools, pitch up on Saturday mornings either. Nor on Sundays.”

    But that is not a cost. It is a benefit. Few people have the freedom, in exchange for a little light teaching, to spend as long as they like breaking new ground in whatever area they are interested in. Admittedly if you are not the sort of man who thinks working until 10 pm every Saturday night is great fun, it may not be all that appealling. In a similar way, if you are not the sort of person with a lot of internal mental resources academia is probably not suitable as a career.

    We give academics millions of pounds worth of laboratories for them to play with. That is a benefit to a lot of people. The problem is that we also ask them to teach and to do far too much paperwork.

  13. Rob and Tim Newman

    Working in the NHS it constantly amazes me how completely resistant people are to the thought of abolishing national pay scales. Although most (well all!) have identified that Jeremy Hunt is both useless and malicious, very few seem able to make the leap of logic that perhaps we shouldn’t want him directly setting our terms and conditions. There seems to be a belief that having people doing different jobs in different places must be paid the same (although don’t mention London weighting) and also a belief that pay is set higher than the market rate despite all evidence and logic to the contrary.

  14. I dream of working 48.2 hours per week. Monday to Friday I work 50-60 hours. When I get home Friday, MrsBud asks “how much work have you got this weekend?” Yes, I get paid a lot more than a teacher, but whereas I could teach maths, physics, chemistry, and probably English and history, very few teachers, if any, could do what I do to an acceptable level.

  15. I should probably weigh in and say I do almost no work during a very short week for a lot of money. In my defence, I didn’t ask for things to turn out this way.

  16. I’ve worked in quite a few places (the fun of being a contractor); in most offices it’s a ghost town by 5:30pm. In government and quasi-government it’s 4:30pm. Everywhere there are some individuals who regularly work long hours. They fall into two types:
    1) Eager beavers who just love work and can’t say no to more tasks;
    2) Lower management brown-nosing in a vain attempt to climb the ranks.

    As a corporate hiring strategy you could do worse than just hiring lots of type 1 people above. The few that I’ve worked with easily do 50% more work than their counterparts.

    But do most “professionals” work 50 hours a week? In the City yes; but not really in the rest of the economy.

  17. Gasman,

    > very few seem able to make the leap of logic that perhaps we shouldn’t want him directly setting our terms and conditions

    It’s the same logic that some parents use: we don’t want the freedom to choose a better school, we just want the one at the end of our road to be better.

    They’re completely missing the point that it’s competition that brings about such improvements in the first place.

  18. When I was a full time professional I worked much longer hours than teachers but then I did earn about five times as much.

    And although accountants now have their fair share of compliance shit, it’s nothing compared to teachers. Show OFSTED a pile of paperwork a foot high and you’re top of the form.

  19. “But do most “professionals” work 50 hours a week?”

    I don’t. Not any more, anyway. I seem to have managed to hit quite a pleasant work-life balance, and stress-salary balance.

  20. Met a teacher who did 3 year degree in education. Including placements at schools.
    She applied to loads of schools around her area, up to about 50 miles away. Of course needing to get a year’s teaching in a school to be fully qualified, which all teachers in state schools have to do.
    Individual cover jobs here and there for a week or so, nothing longer.

    So she went to teach abroad, getting her year teaching that way. Sound good? It was a private school and any marking the kids down for bad work or getting it wrong the parents do not approach the headmaster. They go to the owner.
    Who then has a go at the headmaster who has a go at the teacher.

    The downside of teaching – that parents can disagree with you and your own management force change.

    Saying that, my baby brother has spent 15 years as a auxiliary nurse and is currently a teaching assistant overseas. No qualifications but on a darn sight better net wage than most get here. With accommodation for free.
    Last I heard he’s loving it and the school like his skillbase. Nurse, police, teaching…

  21. In the UK, junior doctors increasingly and teachers overwhelmingly are women.

    In 2013, 73.6 per cent of teachers in state schools were female, and so were 92% of teaching assistants and 82% of school support staff. Why? Because long holidays, short days, generous public sector maternity provisions and the option to work part-time all fit in very nicely with having a family, thank you.

    Look at the photographs of striking junior doctors: women are in the majority by a long way. The strikes were largely about the reluctance of these young women to have contracts that required them to work at weekends. One protester even had a poster saying ‘Weekend working? I want to have a family one day!’

    In the public sector, employees often do the job they want to do rather than the job they are supposed to do.

  22. What Tim Newman and Theophrastus said.

    State services are increasingly run by women and as such are increasingly taking on female characteristics – irrational, selfish and unable to take any criticism.

  23. Another, Andrew M:

    3) Marginal employees who work extra hours in order to achieve an acceptable level of production.

  24. When my grandparents were teachers it was a profession, with the respect being in a profession garnered. Today it is a job, with the respect being a job garners.

  25. “The problem is that we also ask them to teach and to do far too much paperwork.” It’s the paperwork that gets you in the end. People go early because of the paperwork. Or, more precisely, because not only do they loath the paperwork, but because they despise all the dishonesty it entails.

  26. Gary – I’m saying the NHS underpass, relative to the market rate. It’s a monopoly employer – why would it pay more? The regular complaints about locum/agency staff pay rates are because when the NHS encounters a semi-detached market in pay it doesn’t like it.

  27. Gasman,

    But the NHS only uses agency workers in areas and at times when it has a shortfall. Yes they’ll struggle to find an overnight gynaecologist in Edinburgh on Hogmany; but there’s an oversupply of them Mon-Fri during term time.

    The fact that they’re under-paying (and thus having to turn to agencies) for some skills, at some times, and in some locations is in itself proof that for other skills/times/places they’re over-paying. It’s a consequence of national pay deals.

  28. When my grandparents were teachers it was a profession, with the respect being in a profession garnered. Today it is a job, with the respect being a job garners.

    50 years ago many teachers had a good degree from a good university. Those that didn’t had come through the old training colleges, many of which still had a strong church/charity ethos. To increase social mobility, the newer training colleges often targeted their recruitment at those members of the working classes who wanted a white collar job but weren’t diligent enough to get into the professions or the private sector. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, leftists moved into staff positions in training colleges, and encouraged the idea that the teaching workforce should be unionised. The rest is history – right down to the ghastly Christine Blowjob.

  29. Andrew M – while you are probably right in that the NHS is overpaying in some areas, I’m not sure the fact they’re underpay in others is proof of it, especially when combined with the monopoly employer element

  30. @ Theophrastus
    My memory of the ’50s and ’60s differs a little from yours as one of my childhood friends was a teacher in the late ’60s – the teaching profession was already unionised but the NAS and UWT upheld professional standards; the downgrading from a profession to a job was due to the built-in majority of the NUT in the Burnham committee which then demanded the elimination or at least minimisation of pay differentials for qualifications and experience to benefit women who were teaching for a couple of years between gaining a teaching qualification and starting a family at the expense of the professionals so, thanks to inflation the pay for professionals became inadequate for a married man supporting a famil: when I attended a mixed-sex school, most of my teachers were men; when my sons did, nearly all the teachers were female. The NAS/UWT got radicalised decades later.

  31. Yes, john77, that sounds about right. At first, the unionisation was of the staff association kind; later, the NUT introduced the notion of a militant unionised workforce, pushing the ‘progressive’ agenda of the left-wing theorists in the training colleges.

  32. How long precisely was teaching supposedly a profession for, according to the view being put forwards here? Evidently it wasn’t one when Mark Twain wrote that ‘those who can, do’ etc., so it must have become one briefly between then and the seventies, yes?

    Seems a bit convoluted to me.

  33. Bloke in North Dorset

    TimN,

    Ditto for the NHS and the junior doctors: they complained bitterly and threatened to strike over heavy-handed political directives while insisting at the same time that the whole system ought to remain run by politicians.

    I pointed out to a nurse who was complaining bitterly about Jeremy Hunt not representing them. When I pointed out the Jeremy Hunt was there to look after our interests not those of the nursing profession* it went down like a cup of cold sick. Lets hope she’s not in A&E if I ever get admitted.

    Of course, what they want is for themselves to run everything while the taxpayer picks up the bill and has no say in the matter. As usual.

    One of the reasons I gave up on QT was the almost weekly “lets take politics out of the NHS” statements followed by lots of clapping and honking by the trained seals in the audience. These people are fucking clueless.

    I was listening to a discussion on democracy Vs epistocracy, I’m not sure about it but as a minimum people should have to pass an exam in Public Choice Theory before being allowed to vote.

    I should probably weigh in and say I do almost no work during a very short week for a lot of money. In my defence, I didn’t ask for things to turn out this way.

    Their loss is our gain through your contributions here and elsewhere.

    *I use the term loosely

  34. Dave,

    I can’t describe as “professional” any teacher who doesn’t have experience of their subject matter outside the classroom. My old P.E. teacher used to ramble on about how he almost qualified for the 19xx Olympic Games; he was one of the few who had a life before teaching.

  35. @ Andrew M
    My Latin master was highly professional as well as being an excellent teacher. His life before teaching was the Western Front, which probably didn’t involve much use of Latin

  36. Bloke in Costa Rica

    At my (private) school the teachers worked like dogs and involved themselves in all manner of extracurricular activities. They were often there until eight or nine at night. At my sister’s State school (my parents could only afford one of us to be educated privately) the joke was that you had to look pretty sharpish to avoid getting mowed down by the teachers peeling out of the staff car park on the dot of 3.30.

  37. @ BiCR
    Only 9 o’clock? At Public Schools many teachers have to live in to be on call 24 hours a day (on a rota so they do get a few nights off each week).

  38. @AndrewM
    “But the NHS only uses agency workers in areas and at times when it has a shortfall.”

    Not quite true. There are areas where there is a shortage of nurses willing to work on NHS wages, but no end of nurses willing to work at agency rates. Hence there are hospitals in London where pretty much 100% of the nurses are agency workers not withstanding that London is the preferred place for many immigrant nurses (I did a study of nursing pay and differences in agency/payment hiring practices for NHS England about 5 yeasrs ago). There are even some nursing specialties in some hospitals where anecdotal evidence is that agency nurses run a closed shop. When a permanent staff nurse qualifies for those specialties at those hospitals, they quit the NHS and walk back into the same hospital the next day as an agency nurse.

    Similarly there are parts of the North where there is nearly 100% permanent employment of nurses notwithstanding seasonal fluctuations in demand, because nurses like the security and high pay for the area.

    I figured that scrapping national pay and modifying hiring practices to use agency nurses only to match spikes in demand could save NHS England about 15-20% of its nursing staff costs.

  39. @john77
    My boarding house of 70 had a housemaster (with wife and family) and another master (generally a bachelor) living in the house, both theoretically on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week all term.

  40. Dave

    Post-1970, only in the private sector.

    And:
    “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”
    ~ G.B. Shaw “Maxims for Revolutionists”, and an appendix to “Man and Superman”

    Do keep up, dear boy.

  41. Bloke in Costa Rica

    john77, the job of duty teacher was a rotating one. There were several teachers who lived in, often as deputy housemasters. Most of the rest lived within walking distance in the nearby village. And the headmaster had a big house smack dab in the middle of the campus.

    I think there’s a big disconnect between teachers’ notions of themselves as upper-middle class professionals like barristers and surgeons and the actuality that they’re more along the lines of a personnel manager in a factory.

  42. BiCR

    Not dissimilar delusions exist among social workers. Most of them wouldn’t be missed if they were sacked.

  43. Alex,

    I think we’re in agreement with each other. The NHS can use agencies to exceed the national pay scales where required (per your London examples), but it can’t use agencies nor any other mechanism to undercut the national pay scales where not required.

    Perhaps the NHS should pay for London-based patients to travel to the provinces for their operations. Orthodontists could advertise: “Skegness is so braces”.

  44. @ BiCR
    I’ll believe you, but my experience was better portrayed by Alex. Most houses had 50-70+ boys and a housemaster and a young bachelor “house tutor” who shared the duty of being “on call” 24/7. My house had just over 120 boys so a housemaster and two “house tutors”.
    Some teachers are middle-class professionals, some are junk. When I was young the former dominated (even if they were a minority, which I suspect but don’t know), they set the tone; now the latter are so numerous that they dominate.
    If I worked in a factory I should still be upper-middle-class and hold myself to professional standards, conversely I should avoid eating off a plate that had been washed by one of my elder son’s teachers.

  45. My grandparents got themselves through grammar school, my grandmother brought up on her own by a war widow, my grandfather an unexpected late child with parents in their 60s. They both got to university with County Scholarships when they were handed out to about ten people a year.

    My grandad was in the RAF in the Far East, my grandmother “worked for the government”. They both got demob teacher training scholarships. They were teachers until they retired in about 1980, both finishing as headmasters. They were regarded in the same awe as their compatriots who had climbed up to become doctors or solicitors.

    When I was at school in the 1980s my physics and chemistry teachers used to be industrial scientists in British Steel, my PE teacher had assisted in Everest expeditions, a maths teacher was a bronze olympic javelinist.

    What’s the background of today’s teachers? A levels, teacher training, teaching.

  46. @ jgh
    That is an example of why I back Grammar schools. Not because my mother got a State Scholarship from Grammar School but because orphans, and working class kids, could get a chance to go to university if they were bright enough.

  47. jgh – yes, a teacher who can both teach the subject matter and explain how its used in the world outside the classroom.
    Also usually able to present the material in a different way if we were struggling with it.
    An ex-engineer maths teacher sparked my interest in certain types of math and practical engineering. I never went on to be an engineer but did take the time to learn about some things that have proven useful over time.

  48. So Much For Subtlety

    dearieme – “Or, more precisely, because not only do they loath the paperwork, but because they despise all the dishonesty it entails.”

    I can relate to that. In my experience the entire public sector is drowning in, basically, dishonest lies. I think the police get it worst. I imagine most policemen would like to police. Not fill out forms – forms designed to prove that they are racists who deserve to be fired.

    School teachers are probably up there too. But as far as I can see, they come to believe it. Do academics? Probably.

  49. Paperwork.
    Back in early 90s we were promised paperless offices.
    Since then have never come across one.

    Even at uni we had to print out our essays with a cover sheet and hand it in to a central office by the deadline.
    About the only electronic submission I did was my dissertation. Which also had 2 bound copies handed in.
    I dread to think how much paper was wasted that didn’t need wasting.

  50. And is all this learning doing any good.
    And who can get by without being shackled to a machine.
    Sure the garbage man. But who else.

  51. my PE teacher had assisted in Everest expeditions

    That could just mean he or she supplied the Kendal Mint Cake.

  52. The worst thing about modern teaching is that you don’t actually need *any* qualifications in your subject area.

    I could theoretically take a PGCE course and legally start teaching any subject (maths, science, geography), despite my degree only being in IT

  53. Teachers tend to compare themselves to doctors, but in terms of (a) raw numbers, (b) length of education required and (c) salary, they’re really rather closer to nurses.

    Not sure that most teachers would envy a nurse’s working hours, though admittedly a nurse doesn’t take work home in quite the same way.

  54. I’m an ex teacher. Teachers have been saying this since I started (1985) and it isn’t true. They don’t work as hard as they claim they do. Nor do they work all the holidays as they claim they do.

    As regards salary, the colossal index linked pension, which is almost entirely subsidised, increases the salary by at least £10k.

    The idea of teachers comparing themselves with doctors is laughable. Almost anyone can get a teaching qualification (if you want a laugh have a look at the tests they have to do, and sometimes fail).

    Teachers are all paid the same. This means that those tiny few who might be in demand (Maths, Physics, Chemistry, proper Computing) aren’t paid according to the demand, and the rest are overpaid. However, in practice, it doesn’t work. What happens is when your qualified Mathematician talks about a promotion, money is magically found, when your Geography teacher does you don’t care.

    Though actually people don’t really want the STEM teachers beyond a certain level (skills date rapidly) and teaching skills have virtually no value outside education.
    The same thing applies to where you teach. Some schools are absolute pieces of cake to teach in, the children virtually teach themselves. Some are largely exercises in riot control.

    Suggesting teachers should be paid on demand gets a reaction you would consider appropriate for suggesting they be summarily guillotined.

    Teachers will always say “if it’s so easy why don’t you do it” (but never, oddly, accept the counter-argument “if you are so underpaid for your skills why don’t you go and work outside teaching”)

  55. “I could theoretically take a PGCE course and legally start teaching any subject (maths, science, geography), despite my degree only being in IT”

    You wouldn’t believe the level of knowledge and subjects of those teaching IT. Including those with supposed IT degrees.

    IT in schools is this non existent elsewhere concept ICT which is an excuse for filling the curriculum with waffly cr*p. I started 30 years ago with 10 BBC Micros (remember them). Despite rooms of 30 top of the line PCs, we did more with the BBC Micros ….

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