Putting a Contract out on Teachers

This is going to be about workload, and in particular, Russell Hobby’s piece about whether teacher contracts and fewer holidays might solve the workload problem. I thought this was an appropriate issue on which to return to the keyboard, not least because the reason I haven’t blogged for a while is largely due to the fact that, this year, I broke myself on the workload wheel.

Some of this was self-inflicted. The Blessed Gove imposed a new History A-Level curriculum this year. Yes, I know the exam boards came up with the specifics, but the utterly bizarre shared requirements of the 200-Year Rule, and the History-Must-Happen-Over-A-Century demands, are straight from the same fag packet which Gove used for his risible personal first draft of the History National Curriculum (remember the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy for 6 year-olds, anyone ?). Anyway, like a good conscientious HoD, I decided I should try and teach both papers of the new course, so that I could effectively support my colleagues who were also teaching it. That was a big mistake in hindsight, as teaching yourself a new A-Level history paper is not a small thing, especially when it’s one demanded by a man whose understanding of history is equivalent to that of the stupid lad in The History Boys: “History ? That’s just one bloody thing after another.”

In any case, even without Gove, the thing about history is that there’s a lot of it, and it’s ALL different. There’s bugger-all overlap between US history and UK history. Or French history. Or 20th Century History and 17th Century history. In fact, rather inconveniently, every country in the world has several thousand years of its own internal history, even before you consider international relations. And yet Gove managed to impose a requirement that students can’t specialise in a particular era or a particular country.  So the long and the short of it is that teaching yourself TWO brand new A-Level History papers is quite a large thing. Too large, as it happens, for me to manage this year without some serious pain.

Unfortunately, I took aim at my own foot at precisely the time that hand-grenades were going off in my school more generally. Budgetary pressures meant that we had to adopt an A-Level admissions policy which could be described as “Welcome One and All!”, and sixth form classes doubled in size overnight as classes were merged and stacked full of anybody who once expressed a passing interest in watching the History Channel. Hence I find myself personally teaching that new course to more than sixty Year 12 students, plus a further class of twenty Year 13s. Then, just to really make sure I was knackered, the Ebacc-shaped Options system delivered a largest-ever cohort to Year 10, squeezed into fewer classes than last year for those same budgetary reasons, adding a further 50 KS4 students for my marking delight. The coup de grace was delivered by a 12% reduction in non-contact time each week, required by the same budget issues. The result, dear reader, is that despite working a 4 day week, I couldn’t muster the energy or time to write a blog in 6 months.


Now I know there are already a lot of teachers out there currently unwrapping their own bleeding stumps to make comparisons. Hold, my friends, hold ! I do not claim to be the most underwater teacher in the whole ocean. There are others with worse burdens simply in terms of numbers, and that’s before we enter the Monty Python territory which teachers so love to visit :

Teacher 1 : “In my class, I’ve got 35 kids, and an SLT which makes me mark every book every day.”

Teacher 2 : “You think that’s bad ? I’ve got 40 kids in each class. They have to sit on each others’ knees and share books. AND it’s compulsory to do a lunchtime club every day.”

Teacher 3 : “That’s nothing. I teach a thousand kids, half of whom have ADHD. Two hundred of them are in prison and I have to teach them by webinar. And I have to pick them up and drive them home to improve the attendance figures.”

Wilshaw : “Pah! Teachers today don’t know they’re born. When I were teaching, I ‘ad ten classes with 60 hardened criminals in each, and none could read. We ‘ad no books as we ‘ad to burn ’em to melt t’icicles in t’classroom. I set ’em ‘omework four times a day, marked every word with t’right-coloured pen, and made ’em all lunches by cooking whoever failed t’last test. Then I took ’em on a 6-hour run every night to toughen t’buggers up.  AND t’ bloody trendy ‘eadmaster used to let ’em juggle knives in school because he said it were “progressive”. By Eckerslike!  We still got better results than this mob today, mind you.”

Small voice coming from a coffin : “I had to teach in a Harris school.”

Everyone else : “Yup, ok, that last one wins.”

Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that we all probably have a point when we just break. That point might move around depending on other factors in your life, or maybe it remains fixed and you don’t know where it is until you hit it. Who knows? What I do know, is that I hit my own personal buffers this year. Yet here I am, spending a couple of hours on a Friday evening rambling away again. Why ?

It’s because I spent this half-term doing something exciting : house-hunting in a place where the London house price premium (the cash I free up by selling up in London and moving somewhere else) means I can stop teaching. It’s been astounding to discover that there’s a potential future which doesn’t involve endlessly marking essays. A future in which I would again have time to think, write, live, go out, give time to my children, read and occasionally just stare at the sea with a nice cup of tea (yes, it’s by the seaside). This prospect seems to have put a little bit of gas back in the tank, so to speak. A little bit of me doesn’t quite believe it yet, but this is my last year of teaching. I’m 45, highly experienced, conscientious, excellent sickness record, and I am well-regarded by students and colleagues. And I’m off.

The “why” is a whole blog, I guess, and it’s not just one reason. But a large part of it is simply workload : I can’t sustain the level of work which is required of me to be considered to be doing a good job. Yet because I’m fairly awkward, I’m already refusing to do many of the things which other colleagues are doing : the “extra interventions” which have spread like a plague through the education system, and the pointlessly onerous marking practices which have become firmly embedded in schools, like some hideous Japanese Multi-coloured-Pens Knotweed.



So when I entered Twitter and saw the discussion surrounding Russell Hobby’s suggestion that teachers accept far fewer holidays in return for guaranteed contracted hours, I thought I’d put some meandering thoughts down, because the issue of workload stopping play was very much on my mind.

You see, I agree with Mr Hobby that contractual arrangements are probably the best hope of protecting teachers from unreasonable demands. However, I don’t think the sort of working-hours-based contract he suggests is one which is workable. The following reasons sum up why I don’t see his suggestion as a solution :

  • Firstly, any attempt to stick to contracted working-hours limits requires the support of management. I’m sure there are school managers out there who would be going round shooing people out of classrooms, and holding serious SLT meetings looking at ways of cutting workload to ensure contracted hours weren’t breached. Ha ha ha ha haaaa ! Sorry. Remember how well the Workload Agreement worked ? Or the unions’ “work-to-rule” policies ? Or even the “rarely cover” agreement ? Oh, that’s right, they didn’t! For example, my school, which is generally pretty benign compared to most, adopted a “rarely cover” stance in which no teacher would cover a lesson where absence was forewarned, but we accepted a deal whereby we’d cover for colleagues who were unexpectedly absent on the day. I was musing on what a good policy this was the other day, as I covered a lesson for a colleague out on a training course which had been booked some months ago. It’s not that managers are evil. They just have their own pressures, particularly financial, and in the face of such pressures, agreements like that – even contractual ones – are worth not very much.


  • Secondly, it can’t work unless you reduce contact time. What is the work teachers do at home ? (1) lesson planning; (2) marking; (3) admin. Of these, marking is by far the biggest burden. Yet all of those three are generated by classes. If I have 25 lessons in a week, and each generates an average of an hour of work at home, then teaching for 47 weeks a year instead of 39 just means that I’ll be doing those extra 25 hours a week in each of 47 weeks, rather than in each of 39 weeks. The only way that writing a contract for 9-5 would thus work is if (a) I could not teach at all in any of the new extra weeks, so that I can transfer my after-hours work to in-hours work, and (b) it was possible to save up all that marking, prep and admin for those new extra weeks.  Which is clearly not possible. So unless you reduce my taught lessons in each week then I can’t stop doing the extra hours in each week.


  • Thirdly, it won’t work because even if you reduce contact time, the workload isn’t flat. It has peaks and troughs. This week, for example, I begin the Y13 A-Level coursework slog. That means I’m about to receive forty 2000-word essays. Each one takes me about thirty minutes to seriously consider and forty minutes to comment on. That’s twenty to twenty-six hours of marking right there. Half a full working week, on top of my actual working week. Likewise, as the exam season comes closer, I’ll be setting and marking more frequent past papers and essays for Y11 and Y12. A single GCSE past paper question takes me about 10 minutes to mark, and 15 minutes if I’m commenting too. An AS essay takes me 20 minutes to mark, and 25 minutes if I’m commenting. Yet I won’t do that every week. The first week of September has almost no marking, for example. A 9-5 contract simply can’t deal with those peaks and troughs.




So is there no hope? Well, actually, there is hope if we’re creative. I mischievously tweeted in reply to a question by Laura McInerney that the best way to solve the workload problem would be for self-employed teachers to charge schools for billable hours. That would be the only way in which you would give school managers a genuine incentive to reduce workload.  It sounds a bit bizarre. A bit non-teachery. A bit lawyery, in fact. Yet it’s actually a good way of protecting teachers from workload overload.

Think for a moment about what I wrote above regarding the timing required for marking. I know how long it takes me to mark different types of work, from Year 7 Doom Paintings, to A-Level Coursework essays. Most teachers do. I’m sure that it would be an entirely feasible project to establish how long a teacher should reasonably take to mark a given type of work (after all, exam boards do essentially just this when setting rates for markers). Yet we don’t actually use this knowledge at all. When marking policies are set by schools, they take no account at all of how many minutes it takes a teacher to mark books, or how many books a teacher is expected to mark. Most policies are getting increasingly prescriptive, simply demanding that all teachers mark all books at least X times in Y period, irrespective of such realities as : what sort of marking it is, how many students a teacher has, how many hours there are in a day etc. In other words, it completely ignores the actual input required to produce the demanded output. That, by the way, in a nutshell, is where the whole of education policy has gone wrong when it comes to workload, but let’s get back to this specific idea.

At the moment, teachers are effectively told in September: “This is your salary. During the year, we will impose ever more unreasonable workload requirements upon you. These may include lunchtime duties, after-school clubs, changes to marking expectations, extra cover lessons, and a variety of other duties which we haven’t thought of yet because we’ve don’t have our annual panic about What Ofsted Wants until the school down the road gets inspected in October”. This has been going on for years now. In the last five years, most teachers have seen significant increases in workload resulting from new data requirements, greater managerialist interventions, and – above all – increased marking demands. We’ve been like lobsters, gradually getting boiled without realising it, until suddenly, we notice it’s a bit too hot to, well, survive. Like me.

Mr Hobby has floated a different idea, but unfortunately that isn’t workable either. Even if you could find an Education Minister willing to reduce teacher contact time to such a level that it could allow teachers to do their current homework load within contracted hours, you’d then need to find a Treasury Minister willing to increase the schools budget by the same proportion that you’re reducing contact time, because the ONLY way of reducing contact time if you’re not going to reduce children’s time in school, is to employ more teachers. So we have shrinking budgets, a recruitment and retention crisis (that’s me!), and Mr Hobby has proposed a change which would see a need for many more teachers and a hugely increased budget. Good luck with that.

So what we need is a system in which schools regulate themselves. We need to give them an incentive to ensure that workload remains reasonable. And here, my friends, I refer you to billable hours, or at least a similar concept.



Now go back to your September start. “We’re paying you for 2,000 hours. 1,500 of those hours are contracted classroom delivery times. The other 500 will be taken up in admin, marking and planning. You’ll work out with your HoD how best to allocate those hours. Anything we require of you above and beyond those hours, will be paid at X rate, and will be entirely voluntary”.

That puts the teacher in a remarkably powerful position. He or she will know how many students they have, and will know how long it takes to mark a piece of work (unions can helpfully publish national expected requirements). Then an agreement with the HoD which will effectively set, at the beginning of the year, how many pieces of work you’re going to mark for each class, how many data inputs you’ll have, how many “extra” interventions you’ll be expected to do. Working that out is just simple arithmetic. Of course, the maths department might have to help the PE department out a bit with their billing, but that’s a surmountable problem. This puts a cap on workload, and it also sets a negotiating baseline. If someone on SLT comes up with a wacky idea for what they want to do halfway through the year, then fine, but they can’t simply approach teachers and demand that it is done. They’d have to negotiate the abandonment of a piece of marking here, in order to have their wacky new programme there.

Now I know that there are already plenty of people worried about a loss of flexibility. But here’s the thing : under such a system, you still have flexibility as a teacher. If you want to put a bit extra in, then you absolutely can, because nobody will stop you. This would be the equivalent of what lawyers would call “pro bono” work. But it removes the disastrous “flexibility” we currently have, which is entirely a one-sided management flexibility to impose more and more additional burdens on teachers without any additional time or recompense. Frankly, that’s a flexibility I can do without.

Like I said, my school is generally a happy, benignly managed and caring institution. But I have fruitlessly suggested on a number of occasions over the years that we adopt a principle we operated in my old civil service days : if you add a new task or expectation, then you must either add new resources to complete that task, or remove an equivalent existing task from the people expected to complete the new task. This principle has never been adopted. I’m guessing that you won’t find that principle in many schools either. Partly this is because the Cult of the Leader has come to be defined as “Leading is telling people to do lots of stuff, and then checking that they’re doing it”. Partly this is because OFSTED and DFE don’t practise such enlightened management when they impose new requirements and expectations on schools, so school managers find it very difficult to do anything other than pass on increased burdens to staff. Yet this is a short-sighted approach, because the result is what we are now seeing around us today : a recruitment and retention crisis, as teachers, like me, vote with their feet and walk away from a job which they’re effective at, which they enjoy, but which has become incompatible with a healthy existence.

The billable hours model would also vastly strengthen SLTs’ hands in dealings with DFE and OFSTED, because they would be able to give a rapid estimate of how many extra hours each initiative would require, and thus a cost which the Government would have to stump up if it wants schools to do something. Likewise, OFSTED would no longer be able to criticise schools for not dancing to every tune in their repertoire, because schools could reasonably point to their budget, and explain where every penny went, while raising an eyebrow at Ofsted and asking them how they think their unticked box should be paid for. Everyone’s a winner! Except Ofsted and DFE. So, like I said, everyone’s a winner !

In a different blog – if I ever find the time and energy to blog again – I want to return to the principle of diminishing marginal returns, and how schools could benefit from the application of some pretty basic economic principles (such as : employee time is not infinite) to bring about some reality to the current trend for “extra interventionism”. However, I’ll leave this here now, and get back to staring at the brochure of the lovely house I’m going to live in, where I’m going to sit in my garden, looking at the sea, and recalling amusing anecdotes from the teaching career I ended two decades before I had to, because nobody in the system had the wit or ability to turn the temperature down under the boiling pot.





33 thoughts on “Putting a Contract out on Teachers

      • Well, the thing is, after you have given yourself a bit of breathing space, you might find that a bit of teaching here and there suits you down to the ground. After you’ve drunk the requisite cups of tea, the likelihood is that you might get a bit bored….


        • Nobody would want me, I don’t think! I’m a history teacher (are we the only subject still in surplus now?), I’m old (no shiny young bouncer for me), and I’m constitutionally incapable of pretending to play the game in interviews.

          I did actually do an interview recently in a school near where I’m going to, largely because I wanted to see what it was like as a potential school for my kids, but also because I thought if I really liked the Head, I could be persuaded to do a bit here and there. The school was RI, and I thought that if the Head was some grizzled old veteran with a twinkle in their eye, who took the line that life was tough, but with a bit of hard work and smart action, we could do something good there, then I’d have been persuadable. However, I found myself sitting across from a classic product of the new “Leadership” culture. Their first question was “How would you go about delivering the British Values agenda?”. This, mind you, was in a town where every second house flew a cross of St George flag, and I didn’t see a single BME pupil. The Head was ticking an Ofsted box rather than genuinely prioritising the school’s actual issues. Anyway, I laughed, and said I was quite surprised that was a significant priority in that school.

          Later, I asked the Head which two or three of the [many] Ofsted criticisms they thought was a fair cop, and about which they wanted to do something. The answer was a look of surprise and “I don’t think one can question any of Ofsted’s findings”. So again, a Head who saw their own role as an enforcer of the standard tick-box policies of others, rather than the generator of bespoke policies for their own school.

          Unfortunately, that’s increasingly the future. The actual genuine independent leaders (and we all know them when we see them) are a dying breed, while too many of those replacing them think management is a spreadsheet exercise, and they’re the regional branch manager of a franchise, whose job is to impose uniformity at all costs, so as to avoid any personal responsibility. I can’t work for such people.

          The sad thing is that I really like my current head, (a historian, as it happens), and would happily work for him, but just as he’s arrived, I’ve run out of steam! The irony.


  1. I have enjoyed your tweets and this blog and have to say well done on getting out.

    I taught science for over 30 years but enough was enough. I tried to complain about the workload but the Head wouldn’t take on board my concerns. If I’d stayed in teaching then it would have seriously affected my health. My story is here:


    In my new job, for which I had to take a pay cut, I work 37.5 hrs a week with only 20 days (+ Bank Holidays) a year holiday. How come I feel I have more free time than in a very long time?

    Good luck! The grass is greener on the other side!


    • I read your blog. That’s a shocking way to be treated. I know such instances exist, and anecdotally seem to be on the rise, but I hope that such terribly managed schools remain a minority for a while yet. Unfortunately, however, the increasing promotion of people with limited experience, less independence of mind, and a greater propensity to tick whatever boxes will further their own careers, no matter what the cost to others, suggests that your experience may become more widespread in the near future.


  2. Good for you. I am sure things will turn out real well for you and your family.

    I agree with Nancy (and talk from experience), you may well decide to teach part of a timetable which will pay as much as talking an alternative job at the same level of pay. I have found that just being able to walk focuses the mind of SMT.

    Congrats on find this way out, and I hoep things do go well.

    Every teacher should have the experience of having the weight removed from their shoulders. Brilliant.

    Excellent post. I am sure you will are by no means the last.


  3. It’s a really good piece, and I do like your billable hours idea. We perhaps don’t agree on everything (!) but I am sorry that you’re moving on and I wish you well.


    • You should push it, Jonathan, as it fits the free-market philosophical approach quite well. I know you think I’m a trot, but I’m not, and actually my degree is economics (well, PPE without much of the Philosophy “P”). I’m quite comfortable that markets can work, and economic theories can be applied to the most unlikely places, but what we have here is market failure. At the moment, we have a situation where schools are being expected to meet increased demand without any increase in productive capacity. The result is hugely diminishing marginal returns, and the wearing out of the productive human capital (me!).

      I know one of the other areas we agreed on (mustn’t make a habit of it) is that Ofsted’s interventions, witting or unwitting, can and do unhelpfully distort the practices of schools, diverting finite resources into unproductive activities. The triple-marking issue was a case in point, but there have been others. Under a billable hours concept, schools could simply have said “Tick&flick = 1 Unit of time; formative comment = 3 Units of time; triple-marking = 10 units of time”. Faced with finite resources, schools could then have demanded that Ofsted inspectors clarify exactly which other activities should be sacrificed in order to accommodate their preferred marking approach.

      We desperately need a profession in which inputs and resources are taken account of in making decisions about expected outputs. At the moment, we just have a demand which is completely divorced from the reality of supply. A little more application of basic economic theory at every level of economic policy from DFE to schools is required. Push that agenda, and we’d find ourselves agreeing again.


  4. Utterly and completely tremendous blog. Humour, wit, and self-deprecation in appropriate proportions. And the head of the problem has been well and truly nailed on! It’s even almost a very good idea but how do you stop the pro-bono expectation just gradually creeping up. Suppose someone in the DfE-Ofsted-MAT-SLT chain reckons that X is the required performance (where X is some spurious and unreliable VA measure) and is achievable within contract. This means that if you can’t make X then although you are working hard enough you are clearly just rubbish. Of course, if everyone starts achieving X then clearly the correct standard is X+1 and if some teachers are too rubbish to achieve this then clearly they need to do some more pro-bono work to make up for their inadequate skills – or be put into capability…

    There needs to be a culture shift, and that’s in the hands of the DfE (and Ofsted) because although there are some great headteachers out there, they haven’t, as a group, managed to hold the line.

    Very best wishes for your next move.


    • I agree that you’d need to avoid the “aspirational creep” which has also utterly devalued student targets in schools. But that’s where nationally agreed measures come in.

      No system is perfect, but at the moment teachers have no defence at all against unreasonable workload demands, except individual truculence, which is a risky stance. Quantifying teacher inputs in terms of minutes – however raw – would help provide some defence.


  5. Excellent read, thanks for writing it! It really isn’t hard to turn a marking policy into number of hours per week required to do marking. I did it last year at a particular low point and probably as a piece of procrastination to avoid marking! This should be something that sits alongside the marking policy in any Department Handbook. Counting the hours demanded is a good way to start the debate on how to reduce them.


  6. Hugely irritated by this. Unrealistic to think that “billable hours” will ever be adopted. Yes, I agree with all you say about workload and demands of Ofsted, but the only thing that will improve teaching is a radical change of government, and that’s not going to happen either. So as teachers leave those of us left will stagger on in grimmer and grimmer circumstances because we are still naive and idealistic to believe that we make a difference to the kids. Hurrah for you for finding a way out, just don’t ever look back with rose tinted glasses….


    • Sorry you’re irritated!

      I know that there’s no chance of billable hours being adopted. The reason being that it would quickly become apparent that even standard demands placed on normal teachers are currently way beyond what is reasonable. The problem is that I can absolutely see some politician seizing on one half of Mr Hobby’s idea (reduced holidays) while ignoring the other half (a genuine attempt to reduce workload in any given week). Really, the concept I raised was more to highlight the unworkability of such a change unless there’s also a radical change in how we approach everyday teacher workload.

      I disagree about a radical change of government helping. Education policy has been effectively cross-party now since Blair, and I see no prospect of it changing as a result of governmental change. Rather, the only hope is to change the current consensus. No small matter, but ironically the R&R crisis is probably our most likely opportunity.

      As for making a difference? Well, the graveyards are full of indispensable people. I think the idea of the superhero teacher does as much damage to the profession as the idea of the Great Leader, because it establishes a norm which is unrealistic and way beyond the grasp of the majority of people in a mass-entry profession. I don’t flatter myself that there aren’t others who can do what I do. Whether they’d want to is a different issue, of course.

      I think I will probably look back through rose-tints. I’ve enjoyed nearly all my students. I like my colleagues. I’ve had a lot of fun along the way. But one thing I can promise is that I won’t blog on education once I’ve stopped being a teacher. To me, one of the clearest causes of the crisis we find ourselves in, is that the voice of everyday classroom practitioners is nearly totally absent from education policy-making. Economists, book-sellers, academics, carpet-sellers, politicians and journalists all have far more input into policy than actual practitioners. And even the much-lionised headteachers are too often people like Wilshaw, who have long-forgotten the reality of having 300 students and six-lesson days. So I’ll drink my reflective tea in silence.


      • Sorry to hear you’re leaving teaching but I completely understand. I was burnt-out after 20 years and opted for early retirement (when such a thing was allowed). And that was before Ofsted turned heavy-handed enforcer and the exhausting requirement to feed data into computers.

        But once you’ve moved home, settled your children (hope you find a better school than the one you visited), redecorated, done the garden, you might find you’ve got time to become an education researcher and blogger as I have done.

        That wasn’t intended. When I retired I swore I’d have nothing more to do with education (except my own). And I didn’t until December 2010 when I saw a Daily Mail headline shrieking ‘Travesty of our stagnating schools’. Turned out it was based on a DfE press release which used figures the OECD said shouldn’t be used for comparison.

        I was riled. And decided to come out of retirement.


  7. Isn’t part of the problem the unwillingness of teachers to act in a united fashion and support each other in refusing unreasonable workload? I believe they call it ‘action short of strike action.’ There’s a clear template for the approach, the big one being that any new policy has to be workload impact assessed. If this isn’t done then don’t implement it.


    • Yes, but this isn’t going to happen. In fact, I’d argue that one of the major ideological drivers of mass academization was precisely to stop this sort of thing from happening. LEAs acted as a kind of safety net protecting teachers from abusive or unreasonable demands. As public sector employers, they also had to maintain pretty high standards of terms and conditions. When removed, teachers lost that protection: there’s a reason why staff turnover in Harris schools is so incredibly high!

      I don’t think, by the way, that people like the Policy Exchange pushed this because they were evil and just wanted to make teachers miserable. I just think they believed too many right-wing tropes about feather-bedded incompetents, and thought private practices would strip out the wasters. Unfortunately, the net result has actually been that the common teacher martyr complex has combined with a culture of exploitative managerialism to produce an unsustainable outcome.

      As a positive, I think some of those who originally felt they were stripping out waste fat have now realised that they’re actually cutting to the bone. Whether the politicians can be convinced to act, however, is a different issue.


      • Oh yes the academisation has weakened the strength of the rank and file teacher. If you try to take action short of strike action (as I did) then you are seen as not ‘supporting the academy’ and that ‘others are doing it’. A true case of divide and rule and teachers are defenceless. Their only option is to leave.


  8. I am sure there is not a single remedy to the workload problem. It is all ultimately a manifestation of GERM. See these articles on my website.




    I do not have a lot to offer you from pwrsonal experience on the workload issue. The last time I taught A Level was in the 1980s at a Leicestershire Community College. In our science department we worked on a maximum of 12 students in our A Level physics groups. We had three such groups in each of Yrs 12 &13 most years.

    I am not sure marking is a very cost/time effective use of teacher time. As you suggest if you could bill for it then management would soon come up with a different way of achieving the desired outcome of helping and tracking the progress of individual students.

    While you are on my website please have a good browse. Comments are welcome.

    I wish you luck with your new life and although I do not know you personally I think you will soon be bored drinking tea in the garden of your new house by the seaside and want to rejoin the struggle against GERM. At least I hope so.

    These are my suggestions for a better way.


    Best wishes


  9. Speaking from Retirement plus 15, do it! If a great wave of London teachers de-camped to house-price -heaven, it could cause a wave of realisation in government. You may never have this opportunity if house prices go down again. You are in a position of personal power, London Teachers. It’s Saturday, by Sunday morning you should have two hours in which to write down all the reasons on one side of an A3 why you should stay where you are and all reasons to go, change or jump ship on the other. Good luck! Unintended consequences …………


  10. All of the above comments ring true! I handed my notice in before half term with no job to go to. I had a couple of weeks signed off due to stress had my return to work interview armed with referral letter to stress management therapy. The conversation went “now that’s done, here’s a support plan for you.” I suppose you can all guess the kind of support that was offered!! I leave at Easter – supply here I come, ironically at 45 years old too!


  11. Thank you for a realistic assessment of the work life crisis, sorry balance!

    Like you I am leaving, teaching and managing in FE has become untenable – I gave a hollow laugh when I discovered that my role was being advertised as two 0.5 jobs…firstly because it was an admission that they wouldn’t be able find someone to juggle the variety of subjects I do (English, maths and Access to HE) but that they hope that the two people taking on the roles will not notice that they cannot carry out the work within the 0.5 hours and it will spill out into the rest of their job…after all there is a reason I have worked 60 hour weeks for the last 5 years!!

    Good luck with your house move and the future.


    • Thanks Sue. A lot of the plan for what comes next involves writing. I quite like the idea of being a failed author, for as long as the other half’s financial patience lasts. We were at a country park kind of thing over half-term, and it was advertising for a part-time driver for the little train which takes visitors round the site. One of my kids said “Dad, when we move here, you could do that”. There’s my future…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Healthy Skepticism and commented:
    Sometimes I think about moving to London. Then I read something like this, think about the walk from my door along the Cornish coast path, and come to my senses.

    Also: brilliant idea about a structure for teacher’s contracted hours that puts them in control of their flexibility.


  13. Best of luck to you. I’ve not really looked back since I left and that’s quite a sad thing to say because I really, really loved teaching. But I couldn’t function on 70/80 hour weeks. Now I have work which is billable – people buy me in for a day or a session. It’s better paid, I’m my own boss and I still get to work with teachers and children. Some days I take my youngest to school and pick him up. I’m more hooked into the local community and I’m healthier as I have time to exercise. Those things shouldn’t be luxuries – they should be part of a balanced life. What is starting to worry me now is some of the conversations with senior leaders I have about workload. Some blame their staff for being “perfectionists” or deflect blame by saying “we’re not as bad as other places”. Some shrug their shoulders and blame cuts. All senior leaders have it within their power to create a work life balance in their schools. They can reduce data monitoring, introduce smart marking, timetable to allow for team teaching/doubling up of classes which can free teachers up occasionally and help them to be more collaborative and innovative. They can reduce meetings, think much more cleverly about parental communication and act as a buffer between teachers and Ofsted. It’s possible, but only if they’re brave, creative and empathetic.


  14. Thanks for sharing. I know so many teachers finding workload an issue. “I had to teach in a Harris school.” This made me laugh but really I would love to have some more qualitative research into Harris schools. Quite often they are offered as an example of outstanding provision (alongside Ark) but really we don’t know enough of what teachers and students feel about these “Outstanding” places. The few teachers I know I have a terrible time.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your story – hope your change of direction goes well!



  15. Sorry to hear that you are leaving, but happy for you in that you are walking away from something that was causing you pain and left you feeling you couldn’t cope. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and thank you for all the effort that you have put in.

    When the dust settles I think you should maintain your blog, you might find with time to take a broader overall look at what’s happening in education you have even more to say! If nothing else you should maintain it as publicity for the writing you intend to do, how else will we know where to buy it?


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