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The End Of Summer: Do you prefer money or time & how optimistic were you about summer reading?

2 September 2019

First of all, it is September! Another academic year is here. Which also means it is Teacher Tapp’s second birthday 🎉 To celebrate, we will be at ResearchEd on Saturday doing a whole series of fun things – watch out for more details on the app and social media ☺️

Right, what have we learned over the last few weeks as more than 5,000 of you took part in our largest ever survey.

1. The Over-Optimism of Summer Reading!

Think back to the start of the summer. We asked how many books you thought you’d read. At the time, most of you said 3 to 5, or 6 to 8. A teacher on twitter hadn’t forgotten and came up with the idea we should check how those reading plans worked out for you!

Many of you were rather over-optimistic about your plan. 35% of you had been over-optimistic and ended up reading fewer books than you expected. On the other hand, 20% under-estimated and actually ended up reading more! Was it the rain that did it? ⛈

One of the most amusing findings is that we regularly find headteachers are the biggest bookworms. Or, at least, so they say. If you ask how much they spend on books or intend to read during a period, the nerdy headteachers always come out highest.

But – look! – they are also the ones most likely to over-estimate their reading. Whereas deputies and assistant heads are the most likely to under-estimate. Maybe they are more used to having to manage expectations!

Of course, the summer isn’t necessarily a break from work. More than half of you chose to read a book about teaching over the summer – perhaps you were able to buy one using the John Catt book vouchers we’ve been giving away on Teacher Tapp?

Either way, when you get back to school, expect lots of chat about what people were reading over the summer!

2. Your Money Or Your Time?

Inexperienced teachers have it tough – they have low salaries AND the biggest teaching loads. However, despite the very large teaching allocation, we find they are the most willing to accept a relatively small amount of money to teach an extra hour each week.

On the assumption that top-of-main-scale teachers are paid £34,000 to teach 23 hours a week, it would cost around £1,480 to get them to teach an extra hour each week. Getting anyone to teach for £1,500 or less is therefore a good deal for school bursars.

As the graph above shows, 52% of teachers with less than 5 years of experience would be willing to add an extra hour to their timetable for £1,500 or less, compared to 33% of teachers with over 20 years of experience. (Although anyone willing to do this is taking a lower salary than for the rest of their week!)

Intriguingly, when we asked how much salary reduction teachers would willingly accept in return for teaching an hour less, three-quarters said they wouldn’t be willing to make any trade, even for just a £250 reduction in salary!

This is a classic case of loss aversion and is a little crazy when you do the maths. For a £250 reduction you get to lose 39 hours of teaching a year. That means you are only losing £6.40 an hour. Surely, it would be better to gain those 39 hours of time back and make up the cash through a little private tutoring or teaching on a holiday course?

30% of teachers weren’t willing to make a trade on either of these salary-time games.

It is hard to believe the current teaching hours status quo is perfectly optimal, which show how important anchoring is. (Anchor = a reference point around which negotiations typically happen). We feel like we can cope with the status quo because it is the thing we are used to doing!

Another way to look at salary/time trade-offs is to ask about holiday length.

We offered teachers a choice between two extra weeks of holiday or an extra £1200 on their salary. It was a Brexit referendum result! 52% chose the extra two weeks, versus 48% who opted for the £1,200. Not surprisingly, its the inexperienced teachers who tend to opt for the money over the extra holiday. £1,200 means a lot to a main scale teacher.

One reason for a teacher not to take money in these offers, even if they could afford to, is the likelihood they will feel crushed by current working hours.

We can explore this by comparing answers on the holiday and working week questions.

Of the people who told us there was no amount of money that could encourage them to increase their timetable – 42% would nevertheless choose the £1,200 salary increase over the additional two weeks holiday, suggesting they really would benefit from a pay rise but are wary of taking on extra hours each week. The other 58% would choose the holiday, suggesting the value extra time more than money, no matter when the time is given to them.

For those of you taking the money to teach longer hours…. be aware of one thing! Last year we found that teachers who teach for more than 22 hours per week are much more likely to suffer with illness. Burnout is real.

3. Boris Johnson’s Behaviour & Cash Promises

Over the weekend the government has announced its intention to plough extra cash into schools. If it turns up, and there was some spare (rather than covering current costs), what would you like to spend it on?

Primary schools are most likely to spend it on a floating teacher to cover PPA and absence or a SEND specialist teacher. Secondary schools, meanwhile, just want extra teachers. (Presumably because this means more people to help with covering absences and reduces timetable load overall).

The second thing the government announced was a crackdown on ‘behaviour’. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has mentioned behaviour in numerous statements, including on results day, which suggests it is going to be part of future government campaigns. But is ‘behaviour’ really a concern in the teaching profession?

One debate we’ve seen happen over and again is whether teachers leave because of behaviour. We know that teachers really do say this is why they are leaving – with two-thirds of teachers saying this is why a colleague has left teaching.

It is much more common in the secondary sector than in primary, and the longer a teacher has worked in the job the more likely they are to have heard this kind of comment.

This term we will again be tracking behaviour to see the extent to which teachers struggle to settle in to the new term and to give us an idea if behaviour is static in schools or if it is changing over time.

4. Finally, we know you really like the tips from the app, so here are the ones from last week!