A survey of teachers’ wellbeing by the Ofsted schools inspectorate found that Ofsted itself is a major source of workload and stress for teachers in England. The survey of more than 2,000 school and college staff revealed that teachers put in longer hours than many others in the UK workforce, reporting that they worked more than 50 hours a week on average, while headteachers said they worked 57 hours a week in term time.
Teachers said they spent less than half their time in the classroom, with the bulk of their hours spent on marking, planning and administration, including data entry and feedback required by school management to prepare for Ofsted inspections. Pupils’ behaviour was cited by many teachers as a significant problem, with a third saying they were aware of intimidation or verbal abuse of teachers or other staff by pupils on a weekly or daily basis, while “low-level disruption” in the classroom, such as humming and fidgeting, was widespread.
The survey also found the vast majority of teachers were happy in their job, although they complained of a lack of funding and of being undervalued by society. “Teaching is one of the most important jobs there is, so we need to make sure it is highly valued by society and a rewarding career to choose,” said Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools in England. “As the school year comes to a close, I hope parents really appreciate all the long hours and hard work that teachers have put in.”
Teachers surveyed said the most stressful parts of the job included “endless meeting after meeting” and contact with parents, with Ofsted highlighting the burden of parents demanding immediate replies to emails. Others complained about data collection and “ticking boxes” required for Ofsted, with inspectionsregarded as a source of stress because of the increased administrative workload and excessive focus on exam results. High workload and poor work-life balance were cited by several teachers as causing low levels of wellbeing, including complaints of a lack of support from headteachers and other senior leaders in tackling poor behaviour and demanding parents.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said most school leaders worked “extremely hard” to support teachers in dealing with the behaviour of pupils and parents. “Indeed, it is often members of leadership teams who bear the brunt of aggressive behaviour or excessive demands from parents. They certainly don’t need a lecture from Ofsted about how to manage relationships with parents when this is something they do on a daily basis,” Barton said.
“It is vital that we support the wellbeing of teachers and leaders, and ensure that we retain the staff we need to give pupils an excellent education. Schools put a great deal of effort into this. However, Ofsted and the government are the source of much of the stress and anxiety on staff through an extremely high-pressure accountability system.” The survey comes as the government is expected to announce a 2.75% pay rise for teachers in England, although nearly three-quarters of the £480m total rise is likely to come from existing school budgets. There will be a more generous deal for teachers in Wales, as the Cardiff government uses its devolved powers over pay for the first time. Newly-qualified teachers are to receive a 5% increase while the Welsh education minister, Kirsty Williams, has offered a 2.75% increase for the rest, above the 2.4% recommended by the independent Welsh pay review body.