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Increasing the attainment gap, losing your autonomy and working long hours

10 February 2020

1. Why are you working long hours?

Teachers have elastic jobs. They can be everything from classroom instructors, to resource creators, work markers, counsellors, entertainers, routine enforcers and even social workers. Given that that most full-time workers stick to 37.5 hour contracts, it’s amazing to think that 86% of you felt you worked over 40 hours last week and 56% worked over 50 hours.

Why are you doing it? We had a feeling it might depend on what sort of job you do in the school. But it doesn’t really. Whilst heads are a little more likely to work long hours because they enjoy working and classroom teachers are more worried about letting down students, overall you all just work long hours because you feel you need to.

With only 1-in-5 of you telling us you feel senior management pressure you into working long hours, it’s clear that teachers can often be their own worst enemies when it comes to workload. This is a problem as teaching is an infinitely elastic job. Regardless of how much we want to reduce the scope of what teachers to, individual teachers can often feel like there is more work for them to do and continue to work long hours.

2. The scope of a teacher’s work

The scope of your work depends on what types of students you are teaching. Two-thirds of you working in the highest FSM schools are running departmental GCSE booster sessions outside your contractual hours ALL YEAR ROUND! Mind you, we were surprised to see that a third of you are also doing this in private schools. (Do you remember this kind of provision when you were a child?)

Even in primary schools, where the assessments should have no consequences for students, booster classes are being run. This is especially the case in schools in disadvantaged areas.

3. What matters more than attainment?

Someone suggested this intriguing question about whether you would change the way you teach if it benefits everyone, but benefits affluent students disproportionately. Most of you (82%) said you would, though most would also worry about causing the attainment gap to increase.

We had a little idea that those of you who consider yourselves to be ‘progressive’ teachers would be most concerned about the idea of doing something that widens social inequalities, so we took a look. And lo! One-third of you who consider yourself to be ‘very progressive’ wouldn’t do something that helps all students learn more if it also increases the attainment gap. For those who are very traditional, the pattern is reversed.

4. Academies and autonomy

We know how much you value autonomy, so were interested to see how you felt working in an academy affected it. The results should give pause for thought if you are an academy head who is trying to attract teachers to apply to your school. Overall, just 9% of teachers think those in academies have MORE autonomy whereas 34% think they have less.

Those of you who currently work in LA-maintained schools are more fearful about loss of autonomy in academies, but it is also worth noting that those of you who work in large MATs also feel it means a loss of autonomy.

5. The optimism of senior leaders

Here’s your little reminder that it really matters who you ask some questions to. 99% of heads and 90% of other SLT feel that senior leaders at their school are effective in managing student conduct. 32% of classroom teachers disagree!

6. That strange question on teachers working as Ofsted inspectors

Finally, a quick word on the question about the call by some heads for teachers to withdraw from participating as Ofsted inspectors. We tried to write it in a neutral (non-leading way), but this meant we didn’t give much context so lots of you found it difficult to answer. For starters, many of you didn’t realise how many Ofsted inspectors are also jobbing teachers/leaders! Others felt they needed time to learn more about the origin of the question. You can read about the campaign to #pauseOfsted here.

7. Time to catch up on any tips you might have missed…

PS. Want to tell your colleagues about Teacher Tapp? We’ve got all the resources you need here.