Primary state school teachers in England are working almost 60 hours a week, according to a survey by the Department for Education – a sharp increase on the previous survey.
The snapshot of their workload is a grim portrait of a profession plagued by long hours and “unnecessary and bureaucratic tasks”, according to the survey. Many of the 1,000 respondents cited preparations for Ofsted visits as well as form-filling and other paperwork as causing a burden outside the classroom.
The last similar exercise conducted by the DfE in 2010 found that full-time primary school teachers worked just over 50 hours a week – a figure that was little changed over the previous decade.
The latest survey found that teachers worked 59 hours and 20 minutes on average, while their secondary school counterparts worked almost 56 hours.
Martin Freedman, director of economic strategy at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said teachers were now fitting in the equivalent of an extra full day a week by working during evenings and weekends.
He added: “These figures expose [education secretary] Michael Gove’s claim that this country’s educational achievements would be improved if only teachers worked longer as utter rubbish. Exhausted teachers and tired pupils will not help children to achieve the best education outcomes and, at least as far as this survey is concerned, might actually make things worse.”
The DfE was quick to point out that “there were significant differences between the method used in the 2013 survey and that used in previous surveys”.
But teaching unions argued that the changes in methodology could not disguise the impact of larger classes, shrinking resources and increased pressures being placed on teachers.
“This survey shows an astonishing increase in the hours that teachers are working on Michael Gove’s watch. No one enters the profession expecting a nine to five job, but working in excess of 55 hours a week and during holidays is entirely unacceptable,” said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
“Many teachers feel totally overwhelmed and it is hardly surprising that two in five leave the profession after their first five years in the job, and morale is at an all-time low. This is an issue that should concern everyone.”
The worst-off in terms of workload were headteachers in secondary schools, who recorded an average of 63 hours and 20 minutes a week.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the government’s survey backed his organisation’s findings.
“The concerns surrounding unnecessary bureaucracy show that despite the government’s claims that it is committed to promoting efficiency and doing away with endless form-filling, this is failing to materialise on the ground,” he said.
The DfE said the survey showed the vast majority of teachers and headteachers were hardworking and dedicated.
A spokesman said: “We are giving teachers more freedoms than ever and cutting unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy. In fact, teaching has never been more attractive, more popular or more rewarding
“We will explore the survey’s findings and ways to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy with the teaching unions as part of our ongoing programme of talks.”
Publication of the survey comes as the government and the teaching unions begin talks on pay, terms and conditions. Although the survey was carried out last March, its publication on Friday followed a period of pressure from unions, which believed it would support their case.
The main differences between the 2013 survey and earlier versions was in a wider sample used. The latest survey saw a big drop in the proportion of teachers who agreed to respond, raising fears that those who were working the longest hours might be more motivated to reply.
But the union case was strengthened by data obtained by the TUC from the nationwide Labour Force Survey, showing that teachers carried out more unpaid overtime in 2013 than any other profession. The average of 12 hours extra a week was higher than financial directors (11 hours) or lawyers (nine hours).