More than half of all secondary schoolteachers in England say their job is “unmanageable”, according to an international survey revealing that teachers in England have one of the highest workloads in the world.
The survey of teachers and school leaders in 48 countries conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) makes depressing reading for those in the profession in England, who spend longer hours working outside the classroom than anywhere else other than Japan and Kazakhstan.
One cause appears to be the amount of marking required by teachers in England, where, despite years of effort by successive education secretaries, the high proportion of teachers having to mark and write feedback for pupils remains unchanged since the previous survey in 2013.
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Meanwhile, the average age of teachers in England is five years lower than the average age throughout the OECD countries, suggesting that large numbers continue to quit in the early stages of their career.
Damian Hinds, the education secretary, endorsed the survey’s results, saying: “These findings reflect many of the frustrations that I heard from teachers and heads when I first took on the role of education secretary and underlines the importance of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy that I launched in January this year.
“We know that too many teachers are having to work too many hours each week on unnecessary tasks, which is why I have taken on a battle to reduce teachers’ workload so that they can focus on spending their time in the classroom, doing what they do best – teaching.”
While other countries have teachers with an average age of 44, those in England are on average 39 years old, with 18% remaining in the profession after the age of 50 compared with an average of 34% elsewhere.
One reason may be the OECD’s finding that younger teachers – those with up to five years’ experience – usually worked two hours longer each week than their more experienced colleagues, with 50% leaving before the end of five years.
James Zuccollo of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said the survey of 4,000 teachers at 200 schools was “further evidence of a teaching workforce under strain” despite the government’s recent efforts.
“This has serious implications for retention, at a time when too many teachers are quitting the profession early on in their careers, and the number of pupils in secondary schools is growing fast,” Zuccollo said.
“The Department for Education’s recently published recruitment and retention strategy has received strong support from the profession and contains a number of promising measures. The government will be hoping that it is able to turn the tide quickly and improve on the current outlook.”
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England also stands out thanks to its weak proportion of women in senior leadership roles: while 64% of teachers in secondary schools are women, just 41% are headteachers, similar to France and Denmark but below most other countries.
The survey found that while regular incidents of vandalism, injury and abuse directed towards staff had all declined since the previous survey, headteachers reported a sharp increase in the number of weekly incidents of physical and verbal bullying among pupils, rising from 14% in 2013 to 29% in the latest edition.
More than half of secondary schoolteachers in England said more than 10% of their pupils had special needs, one of the highest rates in the survey, below only the US, Iceland and Chile.