Schoolzone blog: When is a teacher not a teacher?

When is a teacher not a teacher?
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16 March 2015

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Answer: when it's only half a teacher.

The OECD recently published a study into the number of hours per week which teachers actually spend on teaching:

  • on average across OECD countries, teachers spend half of their working time in non-teaching activities including planning lessons, marking and collaborating with other teachers.

In the UK - we are almost bang on average, at 38 hours per week, across all countries, except that, in most countries, the older the children taught, the less teaching time is expected. Meaning that, in the UK, primary teachers get a relatively light teaching load compared to other countries. Or you could say they get a fairer deal, compared with secondary teachers.

Pity the poor Japanese teacher, who, on average works a 54 hour week! Envy the lucky Chilean and Italian teachers who work an average of 29 (though of course, it may be that they'd rather work - and earn - more).

Green bar = lower secondary; diamond = upper secondary' dot = primary.

  • Keeping order in the classroom, generally the biggest concern for new teachers, occupiea an average of 13% of all teachers’ time across countries.

As for non-teaching time:

  • the average time spent on planning or preparing lessons is seven hours
  • five hours is typically marking student work
  • other tasks, such as school management, working with parents and extracurricular activities, take only an average of two hours per week each

So, where's all this heading? The report concludes that schools could benefit from developing ways to use teachers’ time more efficiently so that they could devote more time to professional development, teaching-related work and learning.

Kind of a bland conclusion, but from the UK teacher point of view, it helps us keep a perspective on our lots: they're no worse than those of fellow professionals in many other countries and better than most. However, if we only spend half our time teaching, with another quarter planning that leaves a quarter where we're not really using our talents to the full - that's assuming you think the five hours per week spent marking could usefully be done by someone else.

An average secondary school spends about £4million a year on teaching staff costs, so by this reckoning about £1million pounds per school per year is spent on activities which arguably don't need to be done by teachers.




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