While 82% of teachers say their workload is unmanageable, 97% believe school should be as much about encouraging a love of learning as exam results.
Teachers are overworked, undervalued and say there has been too much political interference with education, according to a survey by the Guardian Teacher Network.
More than half of teachers who took part in the research don’t feel trusted at work, while just four in 10 are happy with their jobs.
More than 5,000 teachers responded to the survey, including nearly 1,500 from academies and free schools, which was designed to ascertain how happy teachers are in their jobs, and the causes of their discontent or satisfaction.
A staggering 82% of teachers said their workload has become unmanageable and almost all said that their workload had increased over the last five years. Many pointed the finger at Ofsted and the government for piling too much pressure on schools.
One teacher wrote: “I am happy to work hard, but the current level of scrutiny in my school makes it impossible to make professional judgements about the best way to do things, which is extremely stressful. I have been happiest at times when I have had some control over my workload.”
Others complained of “shocking political interference with education” and said Ofsted was too punitive. “Schools are being held to ransom by Ofsted’s current grading,” one teacher said.
Almost one in five teachers said they thought they had made the wrong career choice. One teacher simply said: “The longer I teach the closer I am to retirement.”
The statistics also suggest that more experienced teachers are no less likely to feel on top of their workload. The same proportion of older and younger teachers said that the amount of work they had to get through was unmanageable.
The picture appears the same across the sector, with the exception of private schools, where 45% of teachers said they were given a manageable workload. The survey suggests that private school teachers may be more motivated by money than others; nearly half said they would consider moving school to get a pay rise, compared with less than a third of teachers in other schools.
Academies and free schools
The government’s push on academies and free schools has become a staple issue for political commentary. But the teachers working in them are not convinced about their effectiveness; only 9% of academy teachers in the survey thought that schools had improved by converting.
The survey suggests that teachers in academies may be slightly more likely to feel undervalued and untrusted in their jobs too. More than half of academy teachers said they didn’t feel appreciated by their superiors – almost 10 percentage points more than in state schools. And academy teachers were eight percentage points more likely to feel untrusted.
On average, respondents to the survey rated their school’s management as six out of 10, with 45% saying their headteacher was “not effective”. Faith in senior management appears to be as much a problem in academies and free schools as it is in state schools; more than a third of their teachers gave managers a rating of less than five out of 10 (five percentage points more than in state schools).
Explaining their concerns, one academy teacher said: “Leadership is good as it meets the corporate objectives. On the flip side, it’s absolutely awful when it comes to demands on the hours teachers should give up so they can chase the results and keep pushing the students. On learning, student overall happiness and teacher wellbeing: a complete no go.”
Another teacher complained: “Corporate mentality is taking over schools. Learning is reduced to measurable outcomes and targets. Schools are drowning in data but receive no support in analysing it, as the role of the local authority is minimalised and replaced instead by academy trusts, whose ability to run large groups of schools is unproven.”
Although part of the argument in favour of academies and free schools was to allow more autonomy and independence in education, their teachers seem just as likely to complain of being constrained by paperwork, exam targets and the curriculum.
“You spend so much time doing the paperwork your actual interaction with children is bottom of the list,” one academy teacher said. “People who do lots of paperwork move up the ladder and the people who are amazing with the children don’t.”
It wasn’t all negative news for academies, however. One teacher said: “We have recently become an academy and therefore have seen some significant changes in leadership. The new structure seems to be more effective, but it is early days yet.”
Despite the pressure and workload, teachers across all sectors are resolutely passionate about the importance of education. More than 97% of teachers said they believed school should be as much about encouraging a love of learning as about exam results.
And far from running away from their responsibilities under the pressure, half of teachers say they simply want more time to prepare for their lessons. One teacher explained: “There’s nothing better than the feeling of inspiring a love for your subject.”