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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Should teachers' working hours be cut?
Teachers should be working an average 45-hour week, according to a report commissioned by the government.

But this should remain a "target" rather than a fixed limit on hours, says the School Teachers' Review Body for England and Wales.

Their report also says there should be guaranteed time in the school week for marking and lesson preparation.

But the recommendations stop short of meeting the demands of the teachers' unions, which are threatening industrial action in support of a 35-hour week.

Last year, a report found that primary school teachers work up to 60 hours a week.

However, once holidays are taken into account, they work similar hours to other professions over the course of a year.

What do you think of the report's recommendations? Are teachers' working hours too long? Would industrial action be justified?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Surely lessons do not need preparing freshly every year, so after the first year or two, the only productive hours would be teaching (up to 25 hrs) plus marking (up to 10 hours). If other paperwork is asked for by schools, why don't the teachers just disobey en masse, refuse to attend 'management meetings' and other distractions, and concentrate on doing their jobs? For such a unionised profession, it amazes me that teachers have been so supine in giving in to demands that they add useless administrative work to their tasks. With a bit of backbone, they could have a 35 hour week right now, without it being handed down by the grace of Estelle Morris.
Brian, UK

I fill in plenty of paper work, yet I would be hard pushed to work 52 hours a week

Marie, England
I have been a teacher for 12 years and have during that time held management positions within the schools I taught. I am currently a special needs teacher and yes I do have a lot of paperwork but I am amazed to read stories about teachers who reckon that they have to work until 9 or 11 at night every week - what on earth are they doing? My lessons are all planned and I fill in plenty of paper work, yet I would be hard pushed to work 52 hours a week + weekends and most of the holiday as some of the teachers here reckon they do. We have a worthwhile and interesting job. Yes, our only perk seems to be the long holidays but what a perk!! Unions would do far better at fighting stupid new initiatives set by the government rather than allowing teachers to become the subject of scorn for many people who work far longer hours for far less pay and holidays.
Marie, England

The only teachers you find complaining are those that fall behind with their work due to lack of effort. I have met many teachers who take on double the responsibilities of normal teachers and still manage to limit their own hours. I am set to take up my first post in September and know exactly what I will be taking on. If you are fed up with it then leave and let someone who wants to do the job take over. The time spent complaining is wasted and should be used educating pupils
Kieran, England

I noted today a report which stated that Teachers, as a profession, have the highest rate of "second jobs" in the country. How do they manage to juggle that with their 60-70 hour weeks then? Have they given up sleeping?
Ben, England

Many of us spend our holidays studying at a university .

Emilie Bubin Green, USA
With the new requirements for continued professional development, many of us spend our holidays studying at a university . If we have reached an advanced level in our studies, there are few courses available during the school year. If the summer break were reduced or eliminated, it would be impossible for some of us to continue to advance in our discipline.
Emilie Bubin Green, U.S.A.

I left teaching last year after 8 years (as did my neighbour). I'm now self employed using the skills I once imparted to children to earn my way - I'm a lot happier and work a lot less for the similar pay! Some of those who tell teachers to take a reality check and see how others work should give teaching a try it for a while! Perhaps they would like to stand up in front of a class of 33 children and teach them (and in many schools these children are the 'terrible child criminals' that everyone wants to put in prison). I doubt that many other professions have to put up with all of society's ills (including in my 8 years, gang rape, armed robbery, attempted murder, GBH, serious sexual abuse of a pupil by her parents, drug dealing by pupils and by parents, child prostitution not to mention the run of the mill bullying that goes on) - not quite what you get in a nice office or workshop is it?
Muiris, Wales

I am married to a dedicated primary teacher and have seen the long hours and stress of the job, and the high quality of many of her teaching colleagues. The issues are very similar in Australia, and teacher shortages are looming here too, as teachers walk away from the profession. At least the pay here is better(and the sun shines more often!)
Mark H, Melbourne, Australia

At the moment most teachers would have to split themselves into two to comply with everything the government is asking them to do.

Paul Lewis, UK
I have worked in industry and I now teach. Industry is far easier, however long the hours. On the other hand there are many ways in which teaching could be made more efficient. However, like industry, teachers are only perceived to be good and conscientious if they put the hours in. Expectations of what can be achieved in individual lessons need to be re-evaluated. At the moment most teachers would have to split themselves into two to comply with everything the government is asking them to do. There should be more time for teachers, especially those with management points to actually manage the job, to create that more efficient unit. Finally, there should be initiatives to tackle the appalling lack of motivation and apathy towards education shown by many pupils which is draining resources and costing the country millions.
Paul Lewis, UK

Teachers currently work 38 weeks a year in UK so pro-rata their working hours are pretty good. Most industries work at least 48 hours a week for at least 48 weeks a year. I agree that teaching is a very stressful and often unrewarding job, and do feel that the paperwork should be done by administration staff, but other than that feel that teachers have no cause for complaint on the hours they work.
C Adams, Hong Kong

Yes, fine, a thirty-five hour week. But will teachers stick to this? One of the things that I find as an academic lecturer is that there are peaks and troughs in my workload, so having a standard number of hours isn't that helpful. Also, a workload is a workload, it still needs to be done. What I put off today will still be there tomorrow and the day after etc. In such circumstances, especially with strict deadlines, you often don't have any alternative but to work during your personal time. For example, when the clock hits the hour and you're expected to teach/lecture, saying "sorry, I ran out of time to prep this session" isn't what the students are looking for. You need to reduce the workload.

Teaching allows you to work at home and juggle family life.

Susan, England
After I had children I moved from a very intense job in the City to teaching. Now I have a life. 12-15 hours a day were normal in the City with only 4 weeks of holiday. Mixing that with a family life was impossible. The money was great, but it was not worth it. Teaching allows you to work at home and juggle family life. I think all teachers should do a spell in the real world. Then they'd stop whining. However, I do resent all the government-induced paper work and the time it takes away from teaching the children. That seems to me to be the source of the problem.
Susan, England

I find it amazing that people are trying to make comparisons between teaching and other industries or professions. It is hard enough to make comparisons with education systems in other countries. The public should want the best possible system, and recognise that we have to be willing to pay for it. The starting salary after 4 years training is too low, and the volume of work is too high over a short space of time. Reform is inevitable, but I would challenge anyone who thinks it is an extended holiday to shadow a classroom teacher, or Head teacher for a week and see the truth. The numbers of those leaving has to be a worry for society. Time to stop the carping and face the facts, the present system isn't working, and any system that relies on good will is a bad system.
Ian, UK

My best friend, a retail manager, is living with his fiancee, a teacher. She continually moans about hours, being overworked and the profession in general. Yet everyday he leaves for work before her, and everyday she gets home after him. She gets 2.5 months a year more holiday than him and her pay would not be a great deal less than his, despite being several years his junior. All in all she seems to have a pretty good deal, as do a couple of other teachers I know.
Alistair Strachan, Northern Ireland

I was brought up by two teachers and was strongly advised not to go into teaching as it had become a "thankless job". I work in the private sector, and I feel badly done to if I have to go on call, stay late one night or work the odd weekend! I think a lot of these comments are just simple cases of people thinking the grass is greener - people shouldn't make judgements unless they really know how it feels to be in that kind of job. And until people start showing a bit more sensitivity to other people's situations, a sensible decision can't possibly be made!
Sarah W, UK

Teachers here and there are overworked and underpaid

Daniel Marsh, USA
Teachers in California as in the UK are expected to continue their career training and update knowledge in the profession at their own expense. All of this means that teachers here and there are overworked and underpaid.
Daniel Marsh, USA

I think the hours issue should be left alone and that, instead, teachers should be paid salaries more comparable to the other professions. An increased salary can't buy sanity but it can buy childcare, a secure pension and high season holidays.
Ruth, UK

I am a middle manager, heading a team of five professionals in 'industry'. I am also a school governor, so I have an idea of what goes on in schools. The head teacher of our school earns less than I do, has a staff of over 50 and a budget of about 1m. If he was MD of a firm of similar size he would probably earn about 3-4 times the salary, and have profit share, company care, good pension, healthcare plan, etc.
Keith, UK

What about the rest of us! Why do teachers think they have a monopoly on working longer hours? They get long holidays. A very good index link pension, a large single payment on retirement plus a chance of early retirement. What a great deal and only have to work 50 hours a week.
Andy, UK

Part of the argument is that the amount of hours worked depends partly on the dedication of the teacher in question and the subject they teach. My wife is a secondary school teacher and although she is very dedicated to her job, she does not let it rule her life. This said, she works 8-4:30 at school, often without a lunch break, works for at least two hours most evenings doing admin, planning lessons and preparing resources. Sundays are dedicated to schoolwork, often 6 hours or more. I would estimate around half of all holidays taken are also given up to school work.

I my opinion if you want to be a good teacher, which she is, this schedule has become a necessity which should not be the case. Teachers are professional people that should be able to devote time and energy into teaching kids, not run into the ground by unnecessary additional tasks. No teachers expect an easy ride, but they should be allowed sufficient time to recharge batteries, which currently appears not to be the case.
Chris M, UK

I applaud all those who dedicate not just their working day, but their entire soul to this profession.

Bren Taylor, England
Having worked as a teacher for 12 years as well as a range of jobs in industry and now in an LEA support service, I once again ask folks to consider why so many new teachers leave the profession after just a year in post. Maybe its the lure of a cushy life in industry, the greater pay...but really, is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? I for one know the cost of teaching to the teacher, and I applaud all those who dedicate not just their working day, but their entire soul to this profession.
Bren Taylor, England

The reference to doctors in one of the postings below really angers me. Teachers here are paid only a fraction of other professions such as doctors.
Callum, UK

What happened to the theory of teaching assistants taking over some of the everyday work and allowing teachers more time to concentrate on teaching. The school where my wife works has just made half of the teaching assistants redundant because of lack of funds. So that obviously results in more work for the teachers.
Tim, England

Why not give teachers 20 to 25 days holiday a year like the rest of us, and then cap their hours at 40 like most other people ? Many, many jobs result in people working outside of these normal times, it is usually a sign of bad management. Either bad time management by the individual, or poor supervision by the superiors.
Andrew Torrance, Wales, UK

My partner has been teaching for 25 years and in the last 5, the admin workload has greatly increased.

Joe, UK
The simple maxim 'You only get out what you put in' is so true of teaching. My partner has been teaching for 25 years and in the last 5, the admin workload has greatly increased. Curriculum development and team meetings, individual educational plans (IEP's) for each child, running records, recording results and marking, planning events, lessons and lunchtime activities, and parents' evenings. Teachers do work in the evenings, weekends and holidays - contrary to some of the comments submitted
Joe, Bexhill on Sea, UK

Teachers are not forced into their profession. Like may other careers, working extra hours is part the job (especially in the UK). Teachers should Stop moaning and get on with it, or get a job they are suited to.
Mike, UK

Both my parents were teachers and my husband is a university lecturer. I know that teaching at any level is not so much a job as a way of life. If it is such a doddle, why is there a shortage of teachers?
Jane, Wales, UK

It's not just the teachers who work long hours, GCSE and A-level pupils have to work just as hard, especiall with the new AS and key skill levels. I admit it is hard for teachers, but it is also hard for pupils. Both need a social life, especially the teenagers, because this is the age at which they are supposed to 'find' themselves, as well as needing to give the brain a well deserved rest.
Leo Howell, England

I used to work evenings, weekends and holidays in order to get my preparation and marking done.

Jan, England
I am appalled and saddened by the total ignorance of what teaching involves and the prejudice against teachers shown by some of these comments. I came out of teaching several years ago and no salary increase would ever tempt me back in. To do the job properly requires excessively long working weeks and as for so-called lengthy holidays - forget it. Just because you're not in front of a class doesn't mean you're not working. I used to work evenings, weekends and holidays in order to get my preparation and marking done. The long summer break is needed to prepare the curriculum for the next year! I still remember the feelings of guilt taking the dog for a walk on a Sunday afternoon when I still had several hours of work to get ready for Monday morning and I'm glad to be free of it. Teachers need your support, not scorn or meaningless comparisons. No wonder the profession is in crisis.
Jan, England

A 35 hr week ? How many other professions offer nearly 1/4 of a years paid vacation time. Teachers constantly moan about having to work 'after hours' - perhaps if more of them had worked in industry they'd realise this is the norm for professional people, not the exception.
John Bradley, USA

Three weeks ago my son's primary school in Guildford suggested morning breaks be cut out completely and the kids work through until lunch and the teachers get to go home on Friday as the school would close every Friday at 1.30pm. Needless to say the majority of parents were outraged, many of us are working parents, we all have additional duties in our jobs but we don't have the luxury of all the school hols and our children's education is being threatened in our eyes. We are appalled the teaching profession would back this outrageous suggestion
Nikki James, United Kingdom

I would challenge anyone to brave a week in a classroom.

Eric McCreery, Wales
The crux of the problem is that teachers do not have a contract that defines hours, responsibilities etc. How many other occupations would work under this totally open-ended regime? As for the usual jibe about "those holidays", most teachers continue with their non-contact work: when else are the termly and monthly plans written? As an ex-teacher, I would challenge anyone to brave a week in a classroom.
Eric McCreery, Wales

I can't believe the naivety of many posting here. They say, "Teachers have long holidays!" They ignore the fact that teachers spend much "holiday" time working on government-required paperwork, exam preparation, marking, etc. They say "Overall, teachers hours are the same as ours!" They ignore the fact that teachers get paid far less.
Chris, UK

Teachers work far too many hours. My wife leaves the house for school at 7 each morning, and she usually spends the evenings and weekends marking or preparing lessons (she quite often doesn't stop till 10-11pm). As for the argument about them having too many holidays - most teachers are in the school for at least some of the holiday, and when they're not they still spend the time working - even during our honeymoon my wife spent a fair bit of time collecting resources!!!
Graham, London, UK

Stop being greedy, you've got it easy and you know it.

Damian, UK
Teachers complain about the hours they have to work. All until the summer holidays arrive, when they gladly boast that they now have four to five weeks out of the six to sit on their backsides and do nothing. Every other week seems to be half term, and another week off for them. Even teacher training days are done in school term and our children are sent home for a day. Why can't teacher training days be in the set holidays? I agree with the earlier comments, teachers may work too many hours in the week, but not enough weeks in the year. Ultimately the only people who suffer from these petty gripes are the children who they are paid to teach. Stop being greedy, you've got it easy and you know it.
Damian, UK

It would seem that a 37 Hour week with 4 weeks holiday would only work if the Term structure is changed to suit, i.e. more terms with less over all holiday time. Why not? This would spread the teachers workload over the year making their working hours similar to the rest of us.
Ian, Cambridge

Having worked in the public sector with some very good teachers and in the private sector within advertising I can honestly say that the private sector is an absolute doddle when compared to the work that good teachers do. The public at large have no idea what it takes to motivate, educate and care for a child within a school environment. It follows that if you stretch teachers too far they will never bring out the best in children that are our nations' future.
Brendan MacLean, Birmingham, UK

What teachers are complaining about is the intensity of their work.

Jared Hutchings, United Kingdom
The natural response to teacher complaints about working hours is that teachers have far longer holidays than other jobs. This is certainly true, but what teachers are complaining about is the intensity of their work. The majority of teachers get home with many more hours of marking and preparation to do every evening. They don't just knock off a 6.00. The majority also have to work at the weekend. This is why teachers want more non-contact time during school hours. Teachers accept that they are not going to be paid private sector salaries because of their long holidays, but they feel that they are being taken advantage of with the intense hours that they work.
Jared Hutchings, United Kingdom

Teachers work excessive hours generally and many still give up their free time to coach sports teams. It saddens me to see many flippant remarks made about a highly dedicated bunch of people who have been rubbished by politicians over the years. A comparison of Teachers/Politician holidays and hours worked would leave many red faces in between the large spaces on the benches in the House of Commons!

Which other group of professionals, if they do not resign by the end of May deadline, have to stay in their jobs until the end of December - very few, if any, I would guess. This seems to conveniently overlooked when the "long holidays" argument is regularly trotted out.
Alun, UK

With an average of 13 weeks a year holidays I for one wouldn't be complaining with the extra hours. It doesn't take a GCSE in maths to work out that teachers are still not working as many hours as the rest of us.
David LJ, Isle of Man UK

If the job is so cushy and well paid why is there such a shortage of people willing to do it?

John, Scotland
I wonder how many people who carp on here about the long holidays that teachers get and the short working days have actually tried to maintain the attention of a class of over thirty pupils for 6 hours and then gone home to plan more lessons and mark the work said pupils have produced. The long holidays allow teachers to plan for the next academic year and recharge their batteries. To all of those that complain let me tell you that the schools will be empty of teachers soon if nothing is done. If the job is so cushy and well paid why is there such a shortage of people willing to do it?
John, Scotland

How bizarre some of these comments here are. I live with a primary school teacher who gets home from work at about 7pm every night, spends the rest of the night marking or whatever else needs doing until about 10.30 or 11, spends most of the weekend preparing, and then works most of her holidays. Couple this with the fact she lost a day's pay last year for attending her brother's wedding and that cheap holidays are a non-starter, can Estelle Morris be so certain that teachers are on a par with other professions? If she was a lawyer and charged by the hour, I would never need to work again! Shame on all of you who criticize the hard working teachers who produce the country's future.
Martyn Field, UK

No. If their hours are cut, who is going to pick up the slack? Someone is going to have to do the work that isn't getting done by the teacher who is "off the clock." Why don't we figure that out first before deciding to cut teachers' hours?
Stacey Turner, American in the UK

They still work shorter hours than doctors

Deborah, London, UK
If teachers want to work 35 hours a week, then give them strictly no more than 4 weeks holiday a year. Whatever sob-stories they come out with, they still work shorter hours than doctors and get paid more than nurses. They should concentrate on doing their jobs, rather than striking or threatening to strike at every opportunity.
Deborah, London, UK

Teachers work too many hours a week but not enough weeks in a year.
R. Sobrany, UK

Perhaps the limit should be based on hours per year. There are many of us out here who have real problems being sympathetic about teachers' long hours when we clock in for 48 weeks of 40 hours. Since the long holidays are only left over from historical necessity (harvest time working) is it not time to review them? How about a 48 week school year with a shorter day for pupils? The staff could then clock in and out, just like an office or factory, and they could do their preparation and marking in school before going home.
Barry P, England

They're getting teaching on the cheap

Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK
Successive education ministers and many parents have failed to grasp just what, in terms of 'out-of-hours' working is required of teachers day in, day out. They're getting teaching on the cheap and don't forget that teachers have families and other commitments in their personal lives in just the same way as everyone else does. A measured, constructive discussion of teachers' concerns could alleviate any need for industrial action.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

As the saying goes, 'Those who can't do, teach'. Perhaps it should be 'Those who can't be bothered to do the same hours as everyone else, teach'
Jez, UK

Absolutely! The sooner they make teaching a really attractive prospect career-wise, the sooner the calibre of teachers will go up. The glut of applicants for posts will then mean they can pick and choose the top candidates. Society will also benefit in the long run.
Dan F, England

I used to think that being a teacher was a piece of cake, school hours and all those holidays! Then I married a teacher and my eyes have been opened. Teachers, sorry, conscientious teachers often work more hours than doctors. With all the preparation, marking, parents evenings, detentions and exams it is unbelievable the amount of time required.
Tim James, Luton

The introduction of a 35-hour working week in Scotland has only made matters worse. My wife still works in excess of 50 hours a week plus weekends, Bank Holidays etc. She has been told that with the 4th/5th year pupils now on exam leave she has to do extra work to make up her 35 hours instead of using the spare time for admin/ marking.
Alan, Scotland

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See also:

08 May 02 | Education
Teachers' 45-hour week plan
12 Nov 01 | Education
Teachers pursue workload cut
03 Apr 02 | Education
Teachers united in workload demand
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