Schools

Key findings from the DfE’s leaked workload report

Survey results kept under-wraps by government show high levels of stress and impacts on mental health

Survey results kept under-wraps by government show high levels of stress and impacts on mental health

31 Mar 2023, 11:39

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The DfE's Working Lives of Teachers and Leaders report shows the strain the profession in under
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A leaked government report has laid bare the school workload crisis, with a quarter of teachers considering leaving within a year.

Results of the government’s “working lives of teachers and leaders” survey, still unpublished but seen by Schools Week, shows how teachers still spend less than half their hours teaching and how many report an impact on their wellbeing.

The survey of 11,000 school staff was conducted last spring.

Here are the key findings.

1. Workloads remain sky-high

Over two in five leaders (43 per cent) reported working at least 60 hours in the most recent full working week, equating to five 12-hour days.

Around one in five teachers (19 per cent) reported the same hours.

Senior leaders’ average week dropped from 60.5 hours in 2016 to 55.1 in 2019 but has now risen slightly again to 56.8.

Meanwhile teacher’s average working week has dropped 48 minutes since 2019, to 48.7.

This is despite a 2019 government pledge to “drive down unnecessary workload pressures”.

More than half (56 per cent) of teachers and leaders thought their workload was unacceptable and they did not have sufficient control over it.

2. Teachers spend more time on admin than teaching

Two-thirds of teachers said they spent more than half of their working time on tasks other than teaching, rising to 77 per cent of secondary teachers.

Among all teachers, general admin work was the task most commonly cited as taking up “too much” time (75 per cent).

Around half said data recording, inputting and analysis, behaviour and incident follow-up, individual lesson planning and marking took up “too much” of their time.

Among leaders, responding to government policy changes was the task most commonly cited as taking up “too much” time (68 per cent).

3. Quarter of school staff consider leaving within a year

A quarter of teachers and leaders reported they were considering leaving the state school sector in the 12 months after the survey was conducted for reasons other than retirement.

This was higher for teachers and leaders working in secondary settings, at 28 per cent.

The most commonly cited reasons for considering leaving were high workload (92 per cent), government initiatives or policy changes (76 per cent), and other pressures relating to pupil outcomes or Ofsted inspections (69 per cent).

Overall job satisfaction was mixed. A majority, or 58 per cent of both teachers and leaders said they were satisfied with their current job all or most of the time.

A minority – 13 per cent – said they were rarely satisfied or not at all.

But a high proportion (69 per cent) disagreed that the teaching profession was valued by society. This included a third who disagreed strongly.

4. Three-quarters unhappy with pay changes

Some 76 per cent of teachers and leaders were not satisfied with national changes to teacher pay in the 2021-22 year, when pay was frozen for most staff.

Forty-four per cent said they did not receive a pay rise that year.

Fifty-eight per cent said this was because they had reached the top of their scale, while 34 per cent blamed the pay freeze and 12 per cent cited budget pressures.

A majority of teachers and leaders (61 per cent) were dissatisfied with the salary they received for the work they did.

The findings of the report were not included in the DfE’s evidence to the school teachers’ review body about next year’s pay award, despite having been available to ministers since at least last September.

5. Flexible working incompatible with the sector

Two in five teachers and leaders said they had some kind of flexible working arrangement.

This most commonly involved working part-time, or being able to do planning, preparation and assessment work offsite.

Primary teachers and leaders were far more likely to work flexibly than those in secondary settings (at 50 per cent versus 29 per cent).

Improving flexible working in schools is a key part of the government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy.

A pledge was made to “champion” it in last year’s schools white paper.

But a majority of all staff (51 per cent) disagreed that flexible working was compatible with a teaching career, while 57 per cent thought it would affect their career progression.

6. Job impacts personal life and mental health

Many respondents felt their work was having a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Over four in five (86 per cent) said they experienced stress in their work and around three-fifths (62 per cent) said their job did not give them sufficient time for their personal life.

More than half, or 52 per cent, said it negatively impacted their mental health. Heads were more likely than other school staff to report this, at 59 per cent.

Teachers and leaders also had lower wellbeing than the average for the UK population.

Mean scores for the UK population for July to September 2021 were 7.6 for life satisfaction, 7.8 for things done in life being worthwhile, 7.5 for happiness, and 3.1 for anxiety.

Corresponding figures for teachers and leaders in October 2021 were 6.2 for life satisfaction, 6.9 for things done in life being worthwhile, 6.0 for happiness, and 4.7 for anxiety.

Unlike other wellbeing measures, a low score for anxiety means a higher level of wellbeing.

7. Training leaves much to be desired

Under half of early career teachers (48 per cent) felt prepared for teaching pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

The DfE is currently reviewing how its teacher training and early careers framework prepare teachers to meet these needs in the classroom. 

In addition, two thirds (66 per cent) of teachers and leaders said the biggest barrier to accessing continual professional development was workload or competing priorities.

The cost of CPD was the issue for 42 per cent of respondents while 41 per cent felt a lack of cover was a problem. 

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2 Comments

  1. John Titor

    Unfortunately the UK government and British public have a gaslighting, abusive relationship with teachers. They whine about a retention crisis yet ignore issues like the insane workload, lack of respect from parents and the kids they should be parenting, the fact that the dress codes are antiquated from Victorian times (most professions have progressed beyond the demand that people wear suits and ties all the time) and the misuse of the term professionalism – I know of one situation where a teacher showed up at 8, on time and was called out as unprofessional because they weren’t in the school at 7 am. This ridiculous culture of martyrdom dressed up as “making a difference” has to stop or guess what? Enjoy the continuation of your retention crisis or better put retention and recruitment disaster. But all the while the UK will collectively put its fingers in its ears and say “nah nah nah, I’m not listening to you”. Then wonder why no one wants to teach.

  2. Vulindlela Sibanda

    “Teachers and their leaders must be put in their places”. This seems to be the mantra of those in charge, assuming there somebody in charge. The system is teetering on the brink. A good start to the resolution of the problem is to get rid of Ofsted. The organisation has outlived its usefulness by ten years, at least.