"I'm exhausted!" and “Anxious about the coming year” The PlanBee Teacher Workload Survey: Summer 2020
24 percent of teachers spent more than TWO WEEKS of the summer holidays on planning and preparation according to a teacher workload survey.
Recently, PlanBee asked teachers to tell us about planning and preparation during the summer holidays and how the pandemic has affected their work. 319 teachers responded to the teacher workload survey, and the feedback they gave provided an invaluable insight into how much teachers work during their time off.
Unsurprisingly the pandemic has had a huge impact on the already overworked teaching workforce, with 60.8 percent saying their workload had increased.
40.1 percent of respondents said planning and/or preparation was the biggest area to increase. 25.1 percent said time spent meeting and/or communicating with parents also increased.
39.2 percent of respondents said marking and/or feedback was the biggest area to decrease.
Reassuringly, as they adjusted to the changes in workload and teaching style brought on by the pandemic, the vast majority of teachers felt supported by their school.
The same cannot be said about the media and the government, with 76.4 percent of teachers not feeling supported by the media and 74 percent not feeling supported by the government.
Teachers have reported feeling a lack of closure this academic year.
‘There is no final closure for the year groups especially year 6. I moved year group at Easter and haven’t really had an impact on my class which is something that I feel very sad about.’
‘Yes massively, we’ve worked through every holiday with no time off and I haven’t got to spend quality time with my Year 2 children that will be transitioning into KS2 - it makes me feel that I haven’t done my job properly despite it being beyond my control!’
‘We haven’t had the chance to say proper goodbyes to colleagues and pupils. Uncertain what the Autumn term will look like!’
‘Yes. I‘m not usually anxious about the coming year. But I have been working from home because I am shielding due to underlying health issues. I have no idea what’s ahead re the big picture in school but no one does.’
‘I don’t have the closure of knowing I finished the year with my kids and am sending them onto their new class adequately prepared.’
‘The vigilance and strangeness of being in bubbles, having to split my class and only teaching half, feeling that they have missed out on so much of the year 6 rites of passage and trying to arrange safe alternatives for memories for them... Exhausting!’
‘It is a mental and emotional exhaustion’
While many teachers said they saw planning and preparation during the summer holidays as part of the job, a significant number of them also revealed that working during the holidays had affected their mental health and general wellbeing:
"It affects how well I sleep"
25.1 percent of teachers said that planning and preparation during the summer holidays affected how well they slept. This is up from 23.7 percent in 2019.
"It makes me anxious"
31 percent of teachers said that doing work during the summer holidays made them anxious. This is down from 34.4 percent in 2019.
"I can't relax"
52.7 percent of teachers said that they were unable to relax during the holidays, in the knowledge that they would not feel adequately prepared for the new school year unless they spend a portion of their time of planning and preparing. This was down from 60.4 percent in 2019.
"It stops me spending time with my family"
55.2 percent of teachers said that planning and preparation during the summer holidays prevented them spending time with family and friends. This was up from 49.1 percent in 2019.
This was the most common response from teachers when asked to describe their mood at the end of the 2019 and 2020 summer term: in 2019, 76.3 percent of teachers said they were exhausted, in 2020, 61.3% said they were exhausted. In 2019, 25 percent also said they felt pleased with a job well done, in 2020, that figure dropped to just 14.8 percent.
A third of teachers have moved year groups
31.3 percent of teachers have started teaching a new year group (different to the one they taught last year in 2019-2020). Those teachers moving year groups were unlikely to have got much support with the move, either. 31 percent of respondents in the teacher workload survey felt they were not given enough—or in some cases any—support when moving to a year group they had never taught before.
The majority of teachers spend a week or more working during the summer holidays
It's no surprise that teachers prepare for the new school year during their summer break – most are happy to spend at least some time doing so, and see it as part of the job. What was surprising was the sheer amount of time teachers are spending. Almost three quarters of teachers (71.1 percent) spend at least one working week on planning, preparation and getting their classrooms ready. A staggering 56.4 percent spend more than ten days working during the summer holidays. That is more than two working weeks' worth of work during their holiday.
Teachers say they are not getting the rest they need due to working during the summer holidays
The most onerous task was lesson planning, with 57.7 percent of teachers identifying this as the key task during the holidays.
Asked how the holiday workload made them feel, teachers used words such as ‘anxious’, ‘stressed’, ‘resigned to it’, ‘frustrated’, ‘fed up, as usual’ and ‘resentful’, though some considered it just ‘part of the job’, ‘exciting’ and ‘acceptable’.
One respondent feels it is ‘Unfair - no other profession has to work during their holiday unpaid and gets no credit for it, and gets criticised by [the] general public and press.’
One said: ‘I expect to work over the summer a little... Every year I am shocked at how much of the summer it takes!’.
Another commented ‘[I am] Frustrated as we had to work throughout the Easter holidays’.
Others felt it is the ‘only way to catch up and be prepared’, [you] ‘Don't really have a choice if you don't want to be overwhelmed in Sept’ and ‘It has to be done.’
One commented: ‘I don’t mind giving my own time. I just wish we were given quality PPA and subject leadership time during the academic year.’
Here at PlanBee we are former primary school teachers. We know that teachers spend time over the summer holidays preparing for the next academic year. But these findings show that some are having to devote great swathes of what should be rest and recuperation time to planning the coming year’s activities, and that suggests that something’s going wrong with the workload they’re expected to handle.
Catherine from PlanBee says “Teachers this year have had to keep children safe and protected in a way they never have before, while managing their personal lives and anxieties surrounding the pandemic. Often with little to no practical guidance from the government. The profession was struggling to retain teachers before this, I am worried that if teachers and schools aren’t better supported, from the top down, an increasing number of teachers are going to leave the profession. Reducing teacher workload is vital for teacher wellbeing and retention.”
The PlanBee 'Teacher Holidays, Workload and Wellbeing Survey 2020' was conducted 1st July-15th July 2020. 319 teachers, headteachers, school senior leaders and HLTAs responded. The full results of the survey are available on request – contact firstname.lastname@example.org