The Burden of Teaching -and What To Do About It

At this writing, teachers in England face an apparently unsurmountable problem.

It’s not educating the children under their care: that has almost nothing to do with it, which is the irony. In fact, ‘education’ as a true function suffers because of this problem.

It’s the mechanical paradox of how to fit the amount of work they are required to do into the number of hours in the week. That’s not the number of paid hours - I mean literally the number of hours in a week. I have personally seen teachers working 35 hours a week in addition to their ‘day jobs’ of 30-35 hours in the classroom. That means that, in some schools, there is effectively a ‘slave labour force’ of teachers working more than twice the hours for which they are paid.

Do these extra hours spent outside school time actually improve the quality of teaching and learning? No.

What are all these extra hours spent on then? Largely on marking and planning. Teachers in some schools spend longer on planning lessons than actually delivering them; then they spend equally long marking work at home, late into the night, following overly complex systems which require different coloured pens and styles of ‘boxes’ or hours of computer input. Most of this planning is never viewed by anyone else or used in any truly constructive way; most of the marking is viewed perfunctorily by the students and is then forgotten.

This overload has arisen due to a fundamental and dangerous misdirection: it has been conceived over time, not by one person or even one government but by increments over many years, that detailed and complex administration builds a machine which effectively communicates data and skills to children. As this ‘machine’ fails to do so, the answer has been to add to it, making it a bigger and stronger and more time-consuming monster - which then also fails.