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Private school staff not getting long enough breaks and working longer hours – ATL poll

ATL | Association of Teachers and Lecturers

4 min read Partner content

Forty-one per cent of teachers in independent schools are only getting a 20 minute uninterrupted lunch break during their working day of six or more hours, according to a recent poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

A 20 minute break means they are getting less than ATL’s recommendation of a break of a maximum of 40 minutes.

Anecdotally many respondents stated that, in principle, they get a 20 minute break, but in practice this isn’t the case with many expected to run extra-curricular clubs and activities during their breaks, or supervise children while eating. Many also said they are expected to attend departmental meetings during their break time.

A female teacher from the Midlands stated: “I find it necessary to work most lunch-times in order to prepare for the next lesson. I rarely take a break of more than 10 minutes during the day as there is so much to do.”

Similarly, a female teacher from the South-East said she has to: “…take a club one lunch and is on duty another. I work all through lunch breaks on other days as well”.

A male teacher from the South-West said: “Although I get a one hour lunch break, 45 minutes is spent eating with students.”

Many members also said they are having to work long hours each day, with some working up to a 14 hours. Many members reported they simply have to ‘work until the job is done’, no matter how many hours that entails. Although having no set contracted hours is common practice in the majority of private schools many felt working such long days was too much.

A female teacher from the South-East said: “We are expected to offer extra-curricular and student support as needed. We do not have any set hours apart from what is timetabled. I regularly work 60 hours a week and quite often more. Weekend working is a regular event. I like my job but would like to get to a holiday and not feel like I might collapse.”

A male teacher from Sussex said: “I am obliged to fulfil at least 49 contacted hours a week. Sport and co-curricular involvement mean that I regularly work a seven day week of 12 plus hours Monday-Saturday and four to five hours on a Sunday.”

A female teacher from the South-East said: “I feel the time I spend in school and working at home in the evenings and on my afternoons off does not equate to the pay I receive. It greatly concerns me that I am not earning anywhere near what I consider fair pay for the work I do.”

A female teacher from the Midlands said: “Excessive workload and pressure just gets worse every year. I’m considering leaving teaching after 21 years.”

The poll also found that 66% of respondents do not receive any additional allowances or payments for extra work carried out.

Furthermore, a quarter (24%) of independent school teachers will only receive a pay increase of less than 1% for this academic year, despite almost a third stating that school fees will rise by more than 2% this year. The School Teachers’ Review Body recommended that teachers in the state sector receive an average of 1% pay increase for 2015/16.

A lack of pay increase comes despite almost half (45%) reporting that pupil numbers have risen, with 16% of members saying they have to work more hours and 13% having to teach more pupils in their class.

A female teacher in the South-West said: “I have not had a pay rise in more than seven years from my school but I’m required to do an increasing amount of work and at weekends.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “It is disheartening that independent school staff have to work considerably long hours and are not even getting a reasonable break during the day in which to re-charge.

“Excessive workload is one of the most serious issues facing the education profession. It affects the quality of teaching and learning our members are able to deliver. It is driving experienced and valuable staff from the profession and is having a hugely detrimental impact on personal lives.

“Private schools also need to recognise the worth of their staff and pay them fairly. If not, staff are left disheartened, with many leaving the profession – adding to the already large-scale problem of teacher shortages.”

ATL will officially be launching a work-life campaign shortly.