The workload is part of the job... isn't it?

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26 March 2015 by ATL
ATL Future have undertaken a survey of teachers new to the profession to ascertain the attractiveness of teaching and the results are powerful, shocking and yet unsurprising.

The press quickly picked up on our findings and it was widely reported.

I, like thousands of teachers, work long hours. Of those surveyed, over half said they regularly work 6 or more hours on the weekend and 30% are spending more than 10 hours on school planning, marking and preparation.

In a bid to protect my evenings and weekends, I am often at school from 7am until I am kicked out at 6pm to avoid weighing myself down with bags of marking and hours of planning.

But I have always been pretty positive about my profession. The workload is part of the job isn't it?

The majority of those we surveyed said that, since starting teaching, their views of the profession had changed. Things have changed for me since starting my maternity leave this year and having my daughter. I chose to work through my pregnancy up until 38 weeks. Having a baby has shifted my perspective dramatically.

The first time I took my baby in to see colleagues it opened my eyes. I was almost greeted by strangers: who were all these stressed people rushing around without a moment to spare? It was then that I truly understood and realised how demanding the profession is, and that I used to be one of those people.

For this reason I was entirely unsurprised that 73% of those we surveyed have considered leaving the profession, just over 50% said they probably wouldn't be teaching in 10 years time, and 25% expected to leave teaching within 5 years.

I am in my fourth year since qualifying and until now I did not consider myself among them. I lived in my happy, busy, bubble of stress, filled with endless superhuman-multitasking and deadline-chasing. But taking a step back has made me appreciate how incredibly unsustainable it is. How could I ever possibly hope to put the same amount of time in after baby had arrived? It is impossible.

After consideration, I feel like my bubble has burst. I cannot spend this precious time any more. So, am I failing the children? Will my teaching be poorer as a result?

During the final trimester of my pregnancy at work I said to myself, "enough is enough". I prioritised, then re-prioritised my to-do list, and re-prioritised again.

Then I simply crossed things off.

Guess what? The world did not crumble down around me. I realised that a lot of my workload has absolutely no direct impact upon the children that I teach.

Where do we go from here? We are seemingly at rock bottom. Teachers are leaving the profession thick and fast around me.

The government recently published its analysis and response to the Workload Challenge and stated it would do more to consider the implications of new policies and not implement new changes midway through the academic year - unless "necessary". This is tantamount to doing nothing at all.

The government has acted to clarify the requirements from Ofsted. But it's really Annex C of the response document - 'Strategies for tackling workload in schools' - that holds the keys to resolving this critical issue. Importantly, it is derived from  suggestions made by the teachers that responded to the Workload Challenge.

This in a nutshell is how we can make real strides forward to make teaching a more attractive profession once again.  We need more opportunities to improve things with through peer support and guidance.

High-quality CPD and new ways to collaborate with one another will be the biggest driver for change and improvement. ATL and its members have an important role to play in putting the attractiveness back into teaching before we loose our brightest teachers and their wealth of expertise and experience.

ATL Future members will be taking forward their work on the attractiveness of teaching as a profession in a session at Conference on Monday 30 March.

By Abbie Hayden, a member of ATL Future.

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As mum of a student teacher I have been dismayed to see the impact that the training has had on the health of my son. Regular 12 hour days and weekend working on marking, preparing resources and lesson planning, being left alone in charge of classes, no time to interact with colleagues and constantly being told "that's what teaching is like, get used to it!". All this plus study at Masters level alongside. He was expecting to join a staff team pulling together and sharing experience but no-one has time for this. It's brutal and he is taking a year out at the end of his training to reflect on whether he wants this as a career. Something needs to change!

I am teaching in FE and coming towards the end of my first year post PGCE. Prioritising your work and simply crossing things off - with no discernible difference to the impact on the learners is a point I am familiar with. it is something that I am aware I need to do. I do however struggle with this greatly because I do not know what it is that I can afford to not do without recriminations from the management in my college. Also, and possibly more importantly, should this unnecessary work be filtered out before it gets to teachers. Is better working practice allowing teachers to be more effective at teaching not a worthwhile investment for employers - this is not directed at my employers, but a more general statement about education as whole. The problem is of course that the bureaucracy required is often nothing to do with the teaching but jumping through hoops for other reasons whether that be Ofsted or other in house quality control systems. By adopting local inspection by those who are best qualified to inspect with an collaborative attitude towards long term improvements for the learners we can reassert out professionalism and improve the outcomes for the learners and those teaching them.