Workload: A Reality Check. The Definition of Reasonable and You Deserve a Life!

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A guest post by @Provokedpedagog

Reasonable definition

There are some common responses I get when suggesting measures to reduce workload either in real life or in the twittersphere , it seems teachers are hell bent on sself-destructionvia unrealistic expectations of what is achievable in the constraints of finite time.  The following list contains a few gems but by is by no means exhaustive:

I CAN DO WHAT I LIKE

WHAT RIGHT HAVE YOU GOT TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO?

IT IS MY CLASSROOM

IT IS MY LIFE

THOSE KIDS NEED ME

YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT, LEAVE ME TO DO WHAT I WANT

BUT IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE

IT WORKS FOR ME

I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO DO WHAT I WANT IN MY OWN TIME

Then in come the flood of passive aggressive likes and put downs from blind cheerleaders for the cause, without the will or wherewithal to think for themselves, gratuitously liking the “powerful” message that also happens to be the orchestrator of their demise.  It’s generally a well followed teacher whom seemingly devotes 25 hours a day to teaching the bejeesus out of everything. They are akin to the plastic beauties on Instagram who spend hours, like farming, pathetic images of their lunch dinner and tea that incarcerate their followers in mind prisons of unworthiness. You know who they are, the ones who post pictures of exam catch up sessions on a Sunday afternoon in some nightmare plastic fast food joint.  I’m sure you have seen the tweets that follow.
‘You go girl’

‘yeah your students must love you so much’

‘wow your so dedicated’

‘Hun you are the best’

greening botI often think have you/they ever questioned that the lack of debate, might be down to workload? In reality I bet half of those tweeters are tweeting from bed exhausted at the attempt to keep up with the seemingly superhuman Teacher who might even be a cunningly designed BOT, the brain child of an evil Govian doppelganger, hiding out in the office of the education secretary.   Why are you/they so unprepared to enter reasoned discussion? What fuels the desperation to light the fuses on the twin cannons of workload?
There are Teachers out there shamelessly boasting about how teaching is their life and how every day of their holidays has been spent laminating or assembling displays and classrooms, of which the level of complexity would shame the natural history museum, or have Micheal Eavis scurrying off to redesign the glasto pyramid stage. They Tweet at midnight, images of piles of books triple marked and assembled back in classroom order, ready to be transported back to school the following day in a hessian bag for life. #markingdone #stillgot20minssleep.

NQT’s who have just left uni and have no life, other than the ideological indoctrination of the youth, on a one handed mission to save the world, surviving on cracker bread and Kilner jars of overnight oats. Wages just barely covering the outgoings, overpriced rents in areas ‘better’ than they can afford, in flats worse than they are worth, using extra blankets instead of heating.  Those still living at home with all the comforts and benefits, saving every penny whilst chanting the mantra, “Yes Headteacher no headteacher 3 IKEA blue bags of bags of marking full headteacher”.

Some have families, children of their own, whom they willfully ignore, caring more about the yoot’s triple turbo double highlighted deep marked scribblings, which just “HAD to be done at midnight”, to satisfy the latest marking initiative, their own children struggling to read a bedtime story to themselves, left orphaned by the job.

One specific tweet which especially twanged my heart twines states that two teachers who live together kissed each other on the morning of the first day of term and said ‘see you at Christmas’!  I know this was a joke but…… It was a joke right…….oh it wasn’t a joke…… Part of me is not sure…..

Let me just lay out my position before we go any further;

I believe that reducing your workload will improve your quality of life

As a result of the improvement in your quality of life, your teaching will improve

Improved teaching will improve outcomes

Improved outcomes will impact social mobility

Social mobility is why I teach

You can dispute my position if you like and I am happy to add, or amend it in any sensible way, in fact, I would positively encourage such other models that sum up your own motivations in such a simple way. To deny teaching has an extensive workload is surely folly and I would happily take on anyone who says anything to the contrary, so in the face of a workload issue,  pragmatism calls upon us to examine the facts.

In the standard teachers pay and conditions document, it states that directed time is 1265 hours a year. This is the time you get paid for. This is what your wages are based on. BUT…… There is a caveat – paragraph 51.7 states:

51.7. In addition to the hours a teacher is required to be available for work under paragraph 51.5 or 51.6, a teacher must work such reasonable additional hours as may be necessary to enable the effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties, including in particular planning and preparing courses and lessons; and assessing, monitoring, recording and reporting on the learning needs, progress and achievements of assigned pupils.

Now this passage hinges on two key words ‘reasonable’ and ‘effective’ and it’s the misappropriation and misuse of these two words that SLT exploit ruthlessly, to guilt trip you into doing UNREASONABLE amounts of additional hours.

REASONABLE by  definition Is being fair and sensible.  So my question to you is what does reasonable look like?  1265 divided by 39 equals 32.44,  That is how many hours the government, the trust, the MAT,  the ‘anybody’ who employs you on the teaching contract pays you for. That is fact. That is how much you are worth to those who will decide your pay. That is how many hours it is estimated takes to discharge your professional duties ‘effectively’. So how many extra hours are reasonable? Let’s make this simple.

1 hour is equal to 3.1% of your contracted working week (rounded from 3.08).

So if you arrive habitually early (like I do), at 7:50 hrs every day that is 5 extra hours a week or 15.4% over and above your contracted hours.  That, I would say, is reasonable.

So then I work every lunchtime of my own volition.  I run catch-up and fun sessions to increase the love of my subject and grab a coffee and, if I remember, a butty on the fly.  Lunchtime is 50 minutes a day so that is another 4.17 Hours per week, multiply that by 3.08 and I get another 12.8%  so now I am at 28.2% over and above my contracted hours that, in my world, is still reasonable.

sumOk, so I absolutely refuse to take non-voluntary school work home, (this doesn’t include work for extra curricular competitions that I invest bags of time in), so I make a decision to stay in school for at least an hour extra every day, on average four days a week, so now we have another 12.3%  So let’s tot tot that up. Give or take a bit that is 40% over and above the hours that I am paid and contracted to do.  I would argue that at this point it is starting to become unreasonable.  Do not take my word for it.  Ask friends and family see how many other occupations do 40% over and above their contracted hours for nothing (apart from junior doctors it’s not many). I am arguing here that 40% is where you should draw the line. That 40% is reasonable, let that sink in.

I can Imagine the conversation. With the ‘Boss’

Boss: Ahh PP glad to catch you, why have you not completed the latest progress review?

MOI: Sorry chief no time, I’ll prioritise it for first thing tomorrow?

Boss: Ermmm you can access little Sims from home now you know, Deadline is today…

MOI: Yes thanks for that but I don’t work at home.  It will be done before 9am tomorrow.

Boss: Erm I would point out that I can ask you to do extra hours so you can discharge your professional duties?

MOI: Yes I am fully aware of my contractual obligations. That’s why I do on average 40% over and above my contract every week and have done for all the years I have worked here, is 40% not enough? I can quite happily show you my diary if you like?

Boss: Oh erm, well I suppose erm….

MOI: Would you like to see my diary?  Is 40% not enough?

Boss: Er… Ummmm..

MOI: Sorry what was that?  I can let my union know if you like and they could perhaps work load impact assess the schools marking and feedback policy, in fact, that is a great idea don’t you think? It hasn’t been done since I came here and maybe with all the new initiatives, there might be some old stuff that could go and make all our…..

Boss: Yes PP tomorrow is fine great to catch up with you see you at briefing…..

There are infinite versions of this conversation by the way and in my experience,  nowhere near enough teachers are confident enough to stand their ground like this, even though they may doing in excess of 40% over their contractual obligation.  Seven years is a long time to experience a year on year real term wage cut, this is a cold hard fact of teaching today. The decision makers for seven years have decided you are not worth inflation.  Think about that. It is personal.

hours

Reasonable means fair and sensible. 40% over your contracted hours is excessive but achievable in my opinion.  Every extra hour you work is 3.08% over your contracted hours, as an experiment log your additional hours. If you have the cojones then log those hours and use that information as Kevlar pants and seek out those tough conversations with mealy mouthed managers and obsequious schmaltzy SLT generals.  Instead of just fouling up the staff room with your pathetic mewlings, I see you! I overhear you every day, moaning and not doing, would you recommend that to your learners?  If you really want to know the full legalities on this and get the exact legal position, you can start by looking at the working time directive of 1998, which you can find here. If you are working more than forty-eight hours on a regular basis your employer is breaking the law.

Effective.

from the STPCD effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties.

Now if because of outlandish and unachievable school policies, especially those concerned with marking and feedback,  you cannot carry out your professional duties in the 32.44 hours plus 40% (substitute your %) reasonable additional hours that you choose to do, Then THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Say it again please out loud. IT IS NOT MY FAULT.  Your management team needs to provide a framework which is achievable and the way you do this, is by insisting that all the staff at school are aware of and expect that a workload impact assessment is carried out on all existing and any changes to school policies. This can be found here, on page 24 of the NASUWT and NUT’s National Action Instructions Phase 5.

The overarching message is measure what you are doing and then STOP doing so much extra.  Stop undermining all of your colleagues who may not be able to do as much extra. accept that if you do extra it sets a precedent.  Send a clear message to your managers that says you are serious about workload and let them know how much time you are working. Get unionised and read up on the action short of strike start taking control of the situation, remember the government thinks that you are not worthy of inflation.

You are a mighty professional pedagogue that roars with knowledge and learning, you have the power to shape minds,  you have the power to build the next generation! How are you going to do that do that in a climate of fear and one upmanship? Your knowledge is not best used spending hours upon hours, writing reams of comments in multi colours to satisfy no one, other than your senior managers, who are only asking you to do it out of fear. They shamelessly drive staff into the grave to cover their own backsides from the impending descent of OFSTED/ESTYN, a flawed club filled with failed heads and unqualified middle-class fops.  If you buy into the brave new world, fueled by social media and like farming, if you follow super human teachers desperate to paint you as lazy and uncaring with passive aggression and unresearched braggadocio, because the amount of laminating you do isn’t enough to choke the life out of an Amazonian baboons lungs.  If this is you, you are destined to burn out and then fade away,  to join that 30+% that leave the best job in the world because it has the worst managers in the world . If you keep giving your precious time for free, before long it will be expected in even more quantities than it is now.

The reality is time is all you have, we work for units of free time, not finances. You are mighty, not meek nor mild mannered so say NO,  shout loudly “I will not be an instrument of the government, I will not capitulate to the whims of the failed heads that populate OFSTED and ESTYN. take your plethora of consultants, who have no idea what it’s like to be in a classroom and insert them where the sun doesn’t shine. I am not a slave to a spreadsheet on some careerists laptop.   I am a mighty teacher and I am taking back the career I love, I will teach those kids my way and I do deserve a life!”

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog and is republished here with kind permission.

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