Teachers should teach 20 hour weeks, says union

Teachers should work no more than 20 hours a week, so they can see their own children and eat lunch, claims Britain's National Union of Teachers

by The Commentator on 7 April 2013 23:58

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Europe's largest trade union for teachers, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), has called for the time they spend teaching pupils to be capped at 20 hours a week, or four hours a day.

The NUT, which represents around 325,000 teachers in Britain, passed a motion last Tuesday demanding a new working week of just 20 hours' teaching time, up to 10 hours of lesson preparation and marking, and five hours of other duties, including time spent inputting data and at parents' evenings.

The motion, passed at the NUT's annual conference in Liverpool has even been declared a "drastic" move by the Left-wing newspaper The Guardian, which states that "most primary school teachers work more than 50 hours a week during term time, while secondary school teachers work for about 49 hours" according to statistics claimed at the conference.

Teachers apparently said they had no time to spend with their children, or to eat lunch, and complained that they often worked past midnight.

A current agreement between schools and unions states that teachers should spend time on "any reasonable activity" their headteacher instructs. There is no fixed limit on the number of hours teachers work a week, although full-time staff must be available for just over 32 hours.

Richard Rose, a teacher from Cambridgeshire, told the conference there was "no time to eat, think or go to the toilet" in the working day. He said many teachers sent emails after midnight because there was no other time to do this. His colleagues had little time to spend with their children. "It's come to something that teachers don't have time to look after their own children," he said.

The conference was addressed by leading hard-Left activists such as Mark Serwotka and Owen Jones who both apparently both stressed the need to get involved with the more general campaign against government spending cuts. The hard-Left "Socialist Resistance" group described the conference on its website as a "move to the left". 

Some were less keen on the idea of reduced working hours. Professor Alan Smithers from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, who said that the demand was ridiculous and detrimental to the profession's public image.

"Teachers undermine the respect of the general public by behaving as an old-fashioned trade union and making unrealistic demands," he said. "Clearly teaching depends on good preparation and rigorous marking of pupils' work and there needs to be an allowance of time for that, but to attempt to limit the number of teaching hours when there is a great strain on finances is a ridiculous request. Teachers do themselves no favours by acting in this way."

Greg Wallce, of the Best Start Federation of Schools wrote in Britain's Daily Telegraph, "Unions, in my view, act against the best interests of children. Teaching is a really hard job and we have many great teachers in this country. I work with a team of over 100 of them, and they go the extra mile every day. These teachers do not need fairy-tale solutions to the challenges posed by the demands of a hard job. One such fantasy proposal was the idea that teachers should only teach 20 hours a week. How is this practical?"

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