It riled me. It still does. Tell someone outside of education that you are a primary school teacher – especially if you are an Early Years specialist – and then the remark comes about spending all day finger-painting and working from 9am to 3pm with most of the year being on holiday.
Okay, if it’s so easy, why are there not big queues around the block for people to start teacher training?
Why are so many education professionals signed off sick with work-related stress?
Why are so many seeking to leave the profession well before retirement age?
First, let’s dispel the notion that teachers work from 9am to 3pm. Most work well beyond their contracted hours, clocking up 11-12 hour day 5 days a week and then working on Sunday, too. Overtime pay? Don’t be daft. Teachers are EXPECTED to work over their contracted hours for FREE.
Let’s put that into context. Teachers’ contracts are 37.5 hours a week. So even taking a conservative 11-hour day and excluded the weekend (which all teachers do work) that’s equivalent of 17.5 unpaid hours every single week. BUT it gets worse. UK teachers are contracted to work 1265 hours over 39 weeks. Divide 1265 hours by 39 weeks, that’s 32 hours a week that’s paid, not 37.5 stated in contracts!
The salary is then split evenly over 12 months, so there are no ‘gaps’ in pay during school holidays. Anything over 32 hours each week, teachers are working for free – that’s 23 hours every week UNPAID. Would you be happy to do that in your job?
Ah but of course… there’s all the holidays. A teacher is only contracted to work 190 in the classroom plus 5 training days. Only 195 days, what’s the problem? Well, we’ve established teachers are only paid 39 weeks so why are they expected to work beyond their contract?
For a start, how does anyone think the classrooms magically appear ready for the start of the academic year? Where does the planning and resources come from? How do all the exercise books get names on them, and labels appear on lockers, pegs and drawers? Teachers generally go into school for 3 weeks of the summer holiday to do this. And Easter is spent writing school reports. So cross off 5 weeks straight away.
Great, that still leaves teachers with 40 days holiday. The MINIMUM statutory holiday entitlement for full time UK workers is 28 days. Even if we ignore the 10 days public holidays that fall outside of term time, teachers get 12 UNPAID days a year more holiday than the minimum statutory entitlement.
So to recap, teachers get paid for 32 hours x 39 weeks of the year. They work at least 897 hours during term times unpaid and then work an additional 5 weeks unpaid during school holidays when they are not contracted to work.
Teaching is never easy. No one in education expects it to be. Nor is it about the money. Teachers always put children first but without a reform, they continue do so in their own time! Teachers don’t work part time – they get paid part time contracted hours to work longer than most full-time jobs. And still the expectations keep rising! Still workload is being “discussed” without any real impact. Incidentally, school leadership contracts are not bound by the 1265 hours – the expected hours are UNLIMITED, and the holiday entitlement is for 2 weeks a year – unless you are called for safeguarding purposes! Er, can someone explain how is being on standby a holiday?
Schools remain in a recruitment crisis. But contrary to public belief, there is no “teacher shortage”. There are thousands of qualified experienced teachers who are no longer teaching. There is, however, a shortage of respect, realistic expectations, and proper professional autonomy for teachers and school leaders.
This is why so many teachers and leaders in education are stopping to evaluate how much more they really can keep giving of themselves without significant detriment to their health and their own families – and whether they really want their legacy to be that they marked 2,001,000 pieces of work.
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