10th October 2016

Teacher workload and professional development in England’s secondary schools: insights from TALIS

This report examines teachers’ working hours, pay, and experience in secondary schools using the OECD’s latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). This provides a new and detailed comparison of the opinions, practices, and professional development of teachers in England with those of 35 other jurisdictions surveyed between 2012 and 2014.

It is the first study dedicated to using this rich, international dataset to specifically explore teacher workload issues in England – providing new insights into the scale of the challenge of delivering adequate professional development and retention of teachers in a secondary school climate which demands higher working hours than those elsewhere.

You can read the full report here.

Key findings


1. Teachers in England are working longer hours than in most other countries. Full time teachers work an average of 48.2 hours per week – the third highest out of jurisdictions compared, 19 per cent longer than the average elsewhere.

  • Around a fifth of teachers in England reported that they worked 60 hours or more in the latest week.
  • This is principally a result of additional time spent marking pupils’ work and carrying out other tasks including administration, rather than exceptional teaching time.Teachers in England spend slightly more time planning lessons than elsewhere, but the average time spent per hour of lessons of 24 minutes is only just greater than the average of 22.
  • It is significantly lower than, for example, Shanghai’s average time spent planning per hour of lessons of 35 minutes.

2. Long working hours are hindering teachers’ access to continuing professional development (CPD). Of 36 jurisdictions, England ranked 30thin average number of days spent each year on some key forms of CPD.

  • England’s teachers spent an average of 4 days on certain forms of CPD in the previous year, including courses, observational visits, seminars and in-service training. This is far lower than the average of 10.5 days across all jurisdictions considered. It is also a tenth of the time teachers in Shanghai spend on these forms of CPD.
  • Workload is a significant barrier to accessing CPD according to 60 per cent of teachers in England, compared to an average of 49 per cent across jurisdictions in the study.
  • Teachers in England who feel very well prepared for various aspects of teaching are around 20 per cent less likely to complain of finding their workloads unmanageable than those who do not feel well prepared.

3. Long hours, low starting pay and limited access to professional development create a risk of teacher ‘burn out’, especially in the early stages of careers.

  • Despite working longer hours at this point in their careers than later, the starting pay for teachers in England is 16 per cent lower than the OECD average.
  • Across all ages and when compared to other similarly educated workers, teachers in England receive around the average level of relative pay compared to 13 other OECD countries. However, in England the ratio between teachers’ working hours and the average for the whole economy is 17 per cent higher than the ratio in the other countries assessed.
  • Only 48 per cent of teachers in England have more than ten years’ experience, compared to an average of 64 per cent. England also has had one of the fastest reductions in the proportion of teachers aged over 50 in secondary education between 2005 and 2014.

Policy Implications:

  1. This new analysis raises concerns for professional development and teaching quality as well as for the wellbeing of teachers themselves.
  1. Teachers in England are spending significantly more time on non-teaching activities which are contributing to excessive working hours. With pupil numbers in secondary schools set to increase, it is unlikely that teaching timetables can be reduced if teacher numbers do not keep pace and there is not an increase in class sizes. The DfE should continue to work to reduce the burden of marking and administration, but improving the effectiveness of lesson planning should be prioritised over reducing the amount of time spent.
  1. The use of ICT in schools and teachers’ proficiency in using technology should be explored from the perspective of teacher working conditions as well as the direct impact on pupil outcomes. Teachers who have pupils use ICT for class projects in all or nearly all lessons considered work 4.6 hours less per week than those who at most occasionally adopt this approach.
  1. The DfE should monitor the implementation of new pay freedoms, which offer an opportunity to better balance relative pay across a teacher’s career, and encourage multi-academy trusts to learn from and spread good practice within their chains.
  1. The DfE and multi-academy trusts should support, promote and monitor implementation of the new Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development. This was published in 2016 and, in developing it, the Teachers’ Professional Development Expert Group recognised the role teacher development can play in managing workload.
  1. As well as considering pay incentives and CPD opportunities, policy makers may also want to consider whether other structural and practice-related reforms might help. Creating economies of scale through multi-academy trust arrangements or school capital policy may help to ease teacher workload, as teachers in larger schools work slightly shorter hours.

See also: 

Parliament – ‘Teacher supply inquiry: Education Policy Institute gives evidence to Select Committee

Parliament – ‘Findings from EPI teacher workload report raised in Commons education questions

Coverage – Peter Sellen: ‘Long hours and low pay: why England’s teachers face burnout’, The Guardian