Holiday rich and time poor – do teachers ever really get ‘out of the office’?

This July, teachers across the UK are looking forward to a long summer holiday. Half a dozen glorious weeks where they can forget about work and spend quality time with family and friends, not having to think about work until September when term begins again. Right?

Time poor

In a sector where employees work a normal week of over 50 hours, work-life balance of teachers constantly comes into question. According to a government report, full-time staff in primary and secondary schools continue to work over 20% of their total average hours before school, after 6pm or at weekends. So, how does the seemingly bottomless teacher holiday allocation add up in comparison to a 9 to 5 full time employee?

Calculations show that teachers end up working an extra 585 hours during term time than a private sector worker, but only receive 280 hours extra back in holiday. How can head teachers ensure that their staff are using any holiday hours for proper rest and recuperation?

R & R

government report revealed that less than a quarter of full-time teachers felt that their workload allowed them to pursue personal interests outside of work all/most of the time. Many teachers claim that they spend half term breaks and summer holidays in a childless school, outside of their contracted hours, planning lessons, preparing activities and catching up on work.

Countless others believe that they fall victim to leisure sickness, where the body is so used to running at a high level of stress and workload it prevents itself from becoming unwell. This is a useful tool until that stress and workload abruptly stop, allowing the body and mind to accept illness and the host to spend a few days in bed.

What can be done?

An increase in planning, preparation and assessment time (PPA) has been identified as the factor that could have the greatest positive impact in reducing teachers’ working hours and opening up their holiday for rest and recuperation. This time can help teachers to properly structure their allocated teaching hours, even allowing for unexpected time costly issues. Implementing this means that staff could receive more marking time for core subjects with heavy mark loads, reducing the pressure of working outside of contracted hours.

Another factor which teachers identify as having a positive impact on working hours is the introduction of ‘rarely cover’.  This means that staff have to cover less lessons, and those that they do cover are confined to non-contact periods for which teachers are already timetabled. This can avoid the tricky issues around missing meals or skipping marking if these planned activities are unable to be done due to having to cover lessons.

Work-life balance

This is a concept that is hard for a lot of workers across a variety of industries to achieve. Teacher attitude and behaviour has a direct impact on children’s performance, so enabling them to recharge and take a step back from work is essential to ensure that can sustain term-time responsibilities. Helping teachers to set clear boundaries where their workload ends and home life starts could be a great way of inciting loyalty as they realise that head teachers care about their struggles both inside and outside of school.

If you want to learn more from the experts, join us for a free Wellbeing event by booking your place here. For friendly help and advice on any HR issue, give Cathy or Lisa a call on 01454 880 658, or email us