The pushy parents and unmanageable workloads at private schools

Private school teachers have spoken of their “unmanageable workloads” and “exhausted” colleagues, with a third reporting that they are expected to respond immediately to parents who contact them at home.

A survey conducted by the National Education Union also found that a fifth of staff are spending the equivalent of four extra working days a week on administration and marking, and nearly two thirds said their school had no policies in place to help manage workloads.

The union’s join general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said it was “unacceptable” that staff are not being allowed a “healthy work-life balance”, after 69 per cent of respondents said their workload had increased in the past year.

I try to leave these messages until school hours resume, but this often leads to parents becoming impatient and critical

“Teachers’ workloads are already unmanageable without the added pressure of being expected to respond to emails from parents during evenings and weekends,” she said. “Schools need to ensure that policies and procedures are in place to help staff deal with work outside of core school hours.”

Of the 1,157 teachers, members of leadership groups and heads at private schools surveyed last month, 45 per cent said their school does not have a policy in place to deal with parents contacting them outside of hours, and that many are expected to respond to emails and texts during evenings and weekends.

When they are contacted outside of school hours by a parent, 29 per cent said they are expected to respond immediately.

One teacher from the north-east told the NEU that parents email teachers “up to midnight” and during weekends and holidays, and become “impatient and critical” if they have to wait until school hours to receive a response. Another from the south-west said teachers must send “a full, recorded response” to parents within 24 hours, regardless of their teaching schedule.

The poll also revealed that 22 per cent of staff spend the equivalent of two extra working days (over 15 hours a week) on activities related to their job during evenings and weekends, while 18 per cent said they spend between 11 and 15 hours a week working outside of core hours.

Meanwhile, 29 per cent said they spend between 16 and 25 hours a week on other job-related activities such as administration or making, and 18 per cent said they spent over 30 hours a week doing so.

Half of the teachers surveyed said they are expected to work extra hours, and 58 per cent said their school has no policy, system or process in place to help manage workloads.

One teacher from the east of England told the NEU that in the week before the October half-term they worked 17 hours a day, while another from the south-east warned the workload was “increasingly unmanageable” and staff are “exhausted”.