The teacher work life balance – Is it more mythical than ever before?

“6 weeks off… every, single, SUMMER?!”

“3 O’clock finish…  every, single, DAY?!”

You’ve heard it all before. You’re the erroneous owner of the most admired job amongst your friends. If only they knew. As we’ll go on to discover here, not only is the easy life of the teacher a complete myth, any semblance of a healthy work life balance is, for most, seeming further away than ever before.

Stats, facts and figures – The landscape of working life for teachers today

10 years ago, a worrying study found that 25% of head teachers had an alcohol problem. So, a decade on, are we still in the same reprehensible situation? In a word, yes.

Today…

Almost 1 third of teachers work more than 60 hours a week – with 82% saying that their workload is unmanageable, and two-thirds reporting that expectations had increased significantly over the last five years.

One in five teachers intend to leave due to workload concerns.

Just 12% of teachers say that they have a good work life balance.

As for our pupils? 70% of teachers report that these impossible demands and the non-existent work-life balance is severely affecting children.

“Teachers have no time left for reflection. There’s more attention than ever before on children’s mental health, but there needs to be this level of support for teachers too. For many, it’s hard to reveal they’re dealing with anxiety or depression.

Health and wellbeing policies in schools should be mandatory and one of the things schools’ performance are measured on”.

  • Julian Stanley, Chief Executive of ESP.

The education secretary – New face, same misunderstandings?

Damien Hinds, a relative newcomer to the role of education secretary, is stepping into some rather unpopular shoes. Ever since 2010, starting with Michael Gove, there’s been increasingly lesser faith with each succession. But is this apathy this misplaced this time around, with Damien Hinds?

A month ago, Hinds fully acknowledged the issue of the teacher work life balance imbalance (and more importantly, outlined a plan to tackle the problem)…

“Too many of our teachers and our school leaders are working too long hours – and on non-teaching tasks that are not helping children to learn.”

“We need to get back to the essence of successful teaching – strip away the workload that doesn’t add value and give teachers the time and the space to focus on what actually matters.”

His promise? To work alongside OFSTED regional school commissioners, the Education and Skills Funding Agency and multi-academy trusts. As for the three core focuses of this effort? Based on Government research, Hinds states that teachers report 3 of the biggest areas that can lead to unnecessary workload to be:

  • marking
  • planning
  • data management

Sounds good.

There are already a few concrete areas that Hinds and Co have outlined as steps being put in place to drive down the unprecedented workload levels…

  1. A dramatic scaling back of visits to schools – to avoid duplication with OFSTED
  2. No new tests or assessments in primary schools
  3. No changes to the national curriculum, GCSE or A levels for the remainder of this parliament (beyond the massive shake-ups already in place – such as the introduction of baccalaureates)
  4. A new recruitment and retention strategy, developed working alongside teaching unions and professional bodies

The big question: Will Hinds finally tackle what his predecessors have failed to?

For approaching a decade, the frustrations and friction between boots-on-the-ground teaching staff and the Education Secretary (whether Gove, Morgan, Greening or Hinds) has come down to this:

They just don’t ‘get’ the pressures of what they ask.

So the success of this latest initiative as to whether the work life balance will truly be redressed by Hinds, will largely be dictated by how successful the collaboration is between the Education Secretary and those he’s pledged to work with and listen to.

So, how are you feeling?

We asked, you answered, and if you’re like our followers, you’re most likely feeling that this year has been the hardest yet. Just what the results of this poll will be after Hinds is done may well be anyone’s guess.

Talentedteacherjobs.co.uk: The leading social recruitment solution for schools to connect and employ teachers, leaders and education professionals.

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