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"I'm exhausted!" The PlanBee Teacher Workload Survey: Summer 2019

"I'm exhausted!" The PlanBee Teacher Workload Survey: Summer 2019

A third of teachers spent more than TWO WEEKS of the summer holidays on planning and preparation according to a teacher workload survey.

During the school summer holidays, PlanBee asked teachers to tell us about planning and preparation during the summer holidays. An incredible 818 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.

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:

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"It affects how well I sleep"

23.7 per cent of teachers said that planning and preparation during the summer holidays affected how well they slept.

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"It makes me anxious"

34.4 per cent of teachers said that doing work during the summer holidays made them anxious.

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"I can't relax"

60.4 per cent of teachers said that they were unable to relax during the holidays, in the knowledge that they would not be adequately prepared for the new school year unless they spend a portion of their time of planning and preparing.

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"It stops me spending time with my family"

49.1 per cent of teachers said that planning and preparation during the summer holidays prevented them spending time with family and friends.

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"I'm exhausted"

This was the most common response from teachers when asked to describe their mood at the end of the summer term: 76.3 per cent of teachers said they were exhausted, although on a more positive note, 25 per cent also said they felt pleased with a job well done.

A third of teachers have moved year groups

31.9 per cent of teachers have started teaching a new year group (different to the one they taught last year in 2018-2019). Astonishingly, 22 of the teachers surveyed in July-August still did not know—or had not been told—whether they would be moving year groups or not.

Those teachers moving year groups were unlikely to have got much support with the move, either. Nearly half 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:

chart showing lack of support for teachers moving to a new year group

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. More than three quarters of teachers spend at least one working week on planning, preparation and getting their classrooms ready. A staggering one third of teachers spend more than ten days working during the summer holidays (more than two working weeks' worth):

chart showing time teachers spend on lesson planning during their summer holidays

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 nearly half of teachers (49.3 per cent) identifying this as the key task during the holidays.

Asked how the holiday workload made them feel, teachers used words such as ‘frustrated’, ‘overwhelmed’, ‘resentful’, ‘drained’ and ‘depressed’, though some considered it just ‘part of the job’.

One said: It doesn’t seem to be a holiday as I’m always thinking about work. Another wrote that they were resentful of the fact that I cannot “switch off” completely. Another said they were ‘overwhelmed’, adding: It is very tricky to juggle it with looking after my own young children in the holidays. Another simply remarked: It’s too much.

One commented: I’m constantly torn because I want to take time for myself and to recharge my batteries but I also don’t know how to take a step back. Unfortunately, due to the pressures and lack of resources/funding and support at the minute, I can’t see it changing any time soon.

PlanBee founder Becky Cranham, a former primary school teacher, said:

Teachers have always spent some 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. Becky Cranham, PlanBee founder

She added: As well as impacting on their mental health, it’s stopping them from spending time with their own children. And that’s not right. We need teachers refreshed and positive in September if they’re to be at their best in the classroom. Reducing teacher workload is vital for teacher wellbeing and retention.


The PlanBee 'Teacher Holidays, Workload and Wellbeing Survey' was conducted 31st July-12th August 2019. 818 teachers, headteachers, school senior leaders and HLTAs responded. The full results of the survey are available on request – contact oli@planbee.com


Oli Ryan

I'm a former UK primary school teacher, now writing for planbee.com about issues affecting teachers, schools and pupils.

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