Workload and other stuff

I am a regular reader of the Guardian newspaper in the UK. Having lived there for nearly five years and marrying my Scottish beauty in the early noughties before moving back here, I feel a very strong connection to the motherland. I use the Guardian as a way to keep me updated mostly on educational “reform” as the UK appear to be a few years ahead of us on this front. It’s good to know which black hole of death we will be plummeting down if National and their freaky pals control the legislature following the election later this year.

Last night this article appeared in the timeline. Commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), not the teacher unions, it outlines the current workload of teachers working in the public education system there.

Just to be clear, this survey was commissioned by public servants working for the department. Therefore you would expect there to be no political motivations twisting the outcome. This is as you would expect with a union-commissioned survey or a survey commissioned by some far-right think tank in favour of privatising the sector (don’t get me wrong, I am a paid union member and work site rep so I totally believe in what they stand for – that doesn’t make them non-political though).

Here are the first three paragraphs:

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 article then goes on to outline secondary school teacher hours (56 hours) and secondary head teachers (63 hours) among the other educators being forced to put in extra-long hours just to get their jobs done.

It really does make you wonder… how long will it be until, thanks to National Standards here in New Zealand, we are being forced into ever-increasing paper generating exercises as we try to placate the bureaucracy in Wellington?

Thankfully, at the present moment, much of my extra workload is based around beginning of the year goal setting conferences and camp. Both of these exercises are very relevant to my classroom programme. However, the more experience I gather, the more seniority I will have and therefore the higher my non-teaching workload will be.

I am being very careful not to be sounding like, “woe is me” about this. As with many teachers I know (so I assume most teachers around the country), there is a constant state of churn boiling up our insides as we reflect on, not just our to-do list, but our many different to-do lists. I currently have 5 or so. None of them are remotely close to being finished. Some things on the list are just pie in the sky stuff (i.e. they will never get done).

In the United Kingdom, bureaucratic demands on teachers are creating the huge workload. Teachers are forced to work an extra half a week just to get all their forms filled in correctly so they will not be publicly admonished when their school is inspected by Ofsted.

As with New Zealand, the United Kingdom is currently in the grips of a Tory-led regime hell-bent on austerity – cutting costs to all but the richest of beneficiaries. Here we had tax-cuts and bank/finance company bailouts; there they had the same.

What amazes me about conservative governments is the fact they regularly call for individual responsibility and personal and business freedom. “Let the Market provide!” they call out in unison. “Open everything up to the fundamentals of the Market. Business can provide where government has previously failed!” The all-providing Market is fantastic if you are able to pay for what the Market provides. Unfortunately for poor people, they don’t have the necessary monies to participate fully in this wonderful Market.

Any self-respecting business owner worth his or her salt would never provide a good or service to someone who couldn’t pay for it. That’s just bad business.

Where the Market fails in this way, the government should step in. With your bog-standard Tory government, when they do step in to provide top-ups, they tend to become micro-managers of the funding they supply. All “i’s” have to be dotted, and all “t’s” have to be crossed in triplicate with one copy kept in your planning folder, one copy kept in the principal’s filing cabinet and one final copy shredded at the end of the year because you realise nobody is every going to look at it.

If you are a beneficiary, school, hospital or other public sector , a Tory government will never trust you at all to make the correct spending decisions for the people in your charge – be they patients, students or children.

Individual responsibility and personal freedom only applies if you are not receiving public money (should I mention something here about politicians receiving nothing but public money? Where’s the scrutiny??).

However, if you are a charter school, you don’t even need to be part of the Official Information Act. Here’s several hundred thousand dollars! Spend! Spend! Spend!!! Even though, unlike some of our oldest and most experienced educational institutions, you’ve never run a school in your life, we completely trust you to make the correct spending decisions. Plus, to make it easier for you, we will keep your spending decisions away from the prying eyes of the annoying media.

Either trust us to make the correct educational decisions for the students in our care, thus reducing our workload, or sell all the bloody schools and privatise everything. This fudgy middle-ground is ridiculous.

Our UK colleagues are already working an extra half week to keep up with the micro-management. If National lead the next coalition of the crazy (incest and fake moon landings anyone?), by the end of the three years our profession will be decimated by educators leaving in droves.

Never mind. It only takes a few weeks to train a new teacher. What the hell am I worried about?

Mr B.

Source:

Primary school teachers work almost 60 hours a week, finds official survey: Guardian – 28 February, 2014

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