In advance of the National Education Union’s annual conference, held in Liverpool this week, more than 8,000 teachers, school leaders and support staff from across the UK have made clear their views on the State of Education and the conditions they are having to work under. Results will be released over the course of conference.

Today, we focus on the survey findings connected to workload.

Whilst government has been slow to acknowledge the recruitment and retention crisis, the situation has worsened: work-life balance is worse than a year ago and the linked issues of workload and accountability are the main reasons education professionals don’t see themselves working in the sector in the near future.

Should I stay, or should I go?

Two fifths of respondents (40%) predict they will no longer be working in education by 2024, and almost one fifth of all respondents to the survey (18%) expect to be gone within two years.

Where do you see yourself…

In two years’ time?

In five years’ time?

In the same role

33%

11%

Looking for promotion in the same workplace

10%

8%

Looking for promotion elsewhere

9%

9%

Changing role or setting but remaining in education

19%

13%

No longer working in education

18%

40%

Don't know

11%

19%

This is broadly consistent across sectors and job type. However, when broken down by levels of experience (i.e. years worked in education), there is much to concern Government about the plight of recently qualified teachers.

According to our results

  • a startling 26% of those with between 2-5 years’ experience intend to leave education in the next five years.
  • For those with less than 2 years’ experience, this drops to a still significant 15%.

When asked why they would be leaving, workload (62%) and the accountability regime (40%) were the main reasons given. These answers are noticeably more pronounced amongst those respondents with less than 5 years’ experience; workload and accountability rise to 77% and 45% respectively.

“My job is no longer about children. It’s just a 60-hour week with pressure to push children’s achievement data through.”

“Exhausted and fed up with the hours I have to maintain in order to keep abreast of paperwork demands. I love the teaching but have grown tired of how relentless the job has become.”

“With a young family, and despite working part-time, I have come to realise that a job in education is not conducive to family life.”

“Working 70 hours a week for many years has meant my health and family life have suffered.  I am getting out before the job kills me.”

When asked what would make their job better in the next 12 months, many respondents referred to being micro-managed:

“To be trusted more as a professional and scrutinised less.  The amount of monitoring in our school is excessive.”

Work-Life Balance

“I am so tired.”

  • 56% of respondents believe their work-life balance has got worse or much worse in the past year.
  • 31% believe it has stayed the same, while just 12% think it has got better or much better.

The worsening was broadly consistent regardless of time spent in schools/colleges – e.g. those who have worked in education for less than two years reported very similarly (57%) to those with two decades or more professional experience (56%).

When broken down by job type, the deterioration is noticeably worse for senior leadership (66%) and heads of department/middle leaders (66%). 38% of support staff report being worse off, with a further 52% - higher than any other job type – reporting a work-life balance consistent with two years ago.

According to sector, college staff report a slightly worse overall picture than those working in other phases.

When asked “what would be the one thing that would make your job better in the next 12 months?” the individual responses were dominated by calls for a reduction in workload. Common were the complaints about the heavy marking and reporting and assessment workload. Many of the responses reflected a concern that the accountability regime both from Whitehall and within schools was damaging learning. One wrote:

“Less assessment for pupils, it creates too much pressure on pupils and creates too much marking for teaching, which is taking away from valuable lesson planning, which would be much more beneficial for pupils.”

Another said: “Trust being given back to the teachers. Less paper pushing and more focus on the children. Less emphasis on SATs results.”

Workload won't come down until the accountability regime is reset and rebalanced so that it can provide reliable assurance that children's education is in safe hands without the detrimental effects on both pupils and teachers of teaching to the test and prioritising tasks, paperwork and data analysis for inspectors above those to support learners.

Stress

When asked what caused them stress, respondents identified very strongly with workload and workload-related issues in their multiple-choice answers.

There is some variation across the results when broken down by job type, but for senior staff and classroom teachers the top four issues remain the same. Support staff are more likely to be stressed by personal finances.

“Teaching is a subtle skill. Not everything can be evidenced. Teaching has been reduced to a set of tasks and of evidencing the carrying out of tasks.”

“There is just a constant adding to the load and half of it really doesn’t make you a better teacher or give the children a better education…”

“My personal life doesn’t exist anymore.”

“I stopped class teaching and returned to a supporting role because of an horrendous work-life balance of stresses and pressures of teaching, planning, assessing and marking – I was working 12-15 hours a day at least 6 days a week.”

“These are what prevent me going back into full-time headship with a young family. I used to love the job apart from the above…”

Commenting on the survey results, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“It is clear from our survey that the Government is doing a far better job of driving teachers out of the profession than they are solving the issue of excessive workload. Damian Hinds has made many of the right noises about fixing the problem, but he and his predecessors have achieved very little.

“The fundamental problem, as the results of our survey shows, is one of excessive accountability brought on by the DfE and Ofsted. The blame is at their door. So long as the main drivers of a performance-based system are still in place, schools will continue to be in the grip of a culture of fear, over-regulation, and a lack of trust.

“We need drastic action and a major rethink from Government if we are to stop the haemorrhaging of good teachers from the profession. Action so far – including clarification documents endorsed by the NEU – has not made the difference. It continues to be a case of fiddling at the edges.”

ENDS

2019-034-NEU

Our survey of 8,674 members in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland was conducted between 28 March and 3 April 2019. Over half of the respondents (53%) are classroom teachers and around a quarter (26%) are in head of department or leadership roles, including head teachers. The sample works in a range of school/college settings, including primary (37%) and secondary (42%).Note to editors:

We are currently in Liverpool for our Annual Conference (15-18 April), during which time you will receive a higher number of press releases than usual.

The Conference Press Office can be reached on 0151 707 4642 (9am-6pm) and 07879 480 061 (24hrs). The press officer can be reached at caroline.cowie@neu.org.uk

Our conference agenda is available here: https://neu.org.uk/media/3861/view

The hashtag for Annual Conference is #NEU19 .

  • The National Education Union stands up for the future of education. It brings together the voices of more than 450,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges across the UK, to form the largest education union in Europe.
  • It is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing its members in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
  • The National Education Union is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). It is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.