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Do most Heads really work 70+ hours a week ? And if so, is it a Good Thing ?

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by Oldcrofter, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. Just read some interviews with Head Teachers, all of whom said they worked 70+ hours a week - i.e an average 10 hour day including weekends.
    Maybe it's true. We hire a primary school hall for choir practice so I know the Head is always in his office that evening until well after nine pm. I believe he's there most evenings until late. It's an average size school (c.240 on roll, I would think,) and in a semi-rural small town with few social problems and plenty of parental, staff and local community support.
    He may do a small amount of class teaching on occasion but I believe it's relatively rare.
    As a fairly recently retired secondary teacher (ex MFL HoD), I do wonder what extraordinary pressures there are to so dominate a Head's working life that there is, it would seem, little or no time for a personal or family life.
    I cannot see that such demands can really be good either for the Head, their family or or indeed the school a a whole.
    What would most help Heads to cut their work load and allow them to both do their job and lead a more balanced life ?

     
  2. Just read some interviews with Head Teachers, all of whom said they worked 70+ hours a week - i.e an average 10 hour day including weekends.
    Maybe it's true. We hire a primary school hall for choir practice so I know the Head is always in his office that evening until well after nine pm. I believe he's there most evenings until late. It's an average size school (c.240 on roll, I would think,) and in a semi-rural small town with few social problems and plenty of parental, staff and local community support.
    He may do a small amount of class teaching on occasion but I believe it's relatively rare.
    As a fairly recently retired secondary teacher (ex MFL HoD), I do wonder what extraordinary pressures there are to so dominate a Head's working life that there is, it would seem, little or no time for a personal or family life.
    I cannot see that such demands can really be good either for the Head, their family or or indeed the school a a whole.
    What would most help Heads to cut their work load and allow them to both do their job and lead a more balanced life ?

     
  3. I think that mine does. Answering all his emails probably takes him hours and he is in meetings most of the time between 8-4pm. Then he has lots of reading to do with all the stuff he gets, including understanding lots of legal stuff. Mind you he doesn't delegate well.
     
  4. I am head of a small, semi rural primary school with just over 100 pupils. I usually teach about 1 day a week which includes PPA cover for 1 of my teachers and I might cover staff out on courses etc to keep the supply costs down.
    I could use my time more efficiently if I shut myself in my office and didn't "waste" time being available and visible through lunchtimes; popping into classes to see what interesting things are going on and then getting so involved I spend a whole lesson helping out as an extra Teaching Assistant; talking at the gate to parents at the start and end of the day.
    I am in school for between 10 and 11 hours each day M-F. I am sometimes in school for a few hours at a week end - it beats going shopping with the missus and daughters.
    At home I have marking to do. I can also access the school IT network from home so tend to "work" on and off through evenings.
    There is clearly an increasing workload on many HTs especially in primary as responsibilities are devolved to schools via the downsizing of LAs. Mr Gove might call it "freeing schools from local authority control"; I call it lots more bloody work!
    I don't think I am unusual. I don't complain because I knew what I was letting myself in for when I took on the job.
     
  5. greta444

    greta444 New commenter

    our head reakons she works until 11pm at home most evenings. However, she finds time to get her hair cut in school time!
     
  6. I probably do at least 10 hours a day during the week and often more. Every week I have at least 1 night a week when I am not home before 9pm - it can be as late as 10.30pm - and sometimes it's more frequent. I always think that I must arrange my diary to go in slightly later the next day but it never quite works like that!!
    I am in a smallish primary (200) and teach half a day a week. Even when I am not physically working I am thinking about it! I wish I could better organised in many ways but it is difficult to have the time during the day if you are going to be 'visible' to parents, staff and children during the day and have the door open to them when they need it. We probably have one family holiday a year abroad and sad as I am I still often take reading for work with me - my husband has banned it this year!
    As Blackdog said, you knew when you went for a headship it would mean committment and most of the time I don't mind, but I do get very tired!
    I certainly don't get my hair done during school time although I have been known to leave by 4.30pm on a Friday to have a trim because I have had Saturday events at school (football tournaments, athletic competitions, etc) and have become desperate!
    I try not to do anything I wouldn't want my staff to do but do go to my own children's Christmas performances which are sometimes during the school day. I give my staff the time off to do so for their children and so don't believe I am being unreasonable.
    As to whether working this much is a good thing or not, I don't know. However, as has already been said, now we are being given 'more freedom' this inevitably means an awful lot more work to be done!
     
  7. bnm

    bnm

    I'm a head and I don't work those hours. I tend to work 7:30amish to 5pmish Mon-Fri with 15 mins lunch (with the children). I rarely take work home and almost never work at the weekends.
    I work between 30% and 60% of the holidays.
    That working pattern suits me and seems to get the job done.
    I'm fortunate that my governors' meetings tend to be late afternoon and not evening meetings.
    I'm a morning person so if I'm getting behind I will go in earlier (6:30ish). I know I'm no good in the evenings so no point in staying beyond 6:30pm. Holidays are when I get to the bottom of my in-tray and ahead as far as I can for the next half term.
     
  8. I have had hair short enough to keep trimmed myself. Saves time and money.
     
  9. As a primary head, I get to school between 7:30 and 8:00 every day. I leave at between 5:30 and 7pm. I work during half term holidays (just like a normal day) to catch up on the long jobs (SEF, SDP etc).
    As another poster said, I could spend all my time shut away in my office, but that would not allow me to do my whole job, just the 'paperwork'.
    I have my lunch with the children and am 'available' throughout lunch to support the midday staff if I am in school.
    Currently I have a 40% class-teaching commitment though I am officially a non-teaching head. Prior to this I would cover an average of 70 hours per year for release purposes and unplanned absence.
    Yes, I take the odd hour to do personal stuff - drop dry cleaning, sort out my daughter's university accommodation. I can be more flexible with my 'working week' as I do not have to be in class. You can't do these things when you get home.
    I also do not sleep before the SIP visit as my mind is racing and was in Tesco's buying biscuits for OfSTED inspectors at 6:00am on their first day. (They left at 7pm and I then had to lock up and get home to repeat the exercise the next day!) If the caretaker has 'finished' (eg parents evening) I lock up and leave alone and in darkness once I have ensured my staff are safely on their way.
    The pressures? LA/OfSTED/Government expectations that all pupils must be average and above (yes I know it does not make sense!). The knowledge that every expectation you pass onto your teachers increases the pressure/stress for them.
    It does impact on family life, but I waited till my children were old enough to be independent. My husband does the shopping, cleaning and cooking, because he can.
    Would I change anything? No. Because it is the role I chose and the role I love - one that I have spent 25 years preparing for. If I have to spend an extra 30 mins in school in the evening because I spent it talking to children who were sent to share lovely work with me, then it is worth it.
    Those of us who choose headship should do it with eyes wide open, fully aware of and willing to make the commitment to the role. The highs outweigh the lows and the joy when it all works out is indescribable!
     
  10. upsadaisy

    upsadaisy New commenter

    My head never brings home work, in fact she likes to brag about that to us. She never teaches. She gets in at 8:00 and leaves before 5. She comes in 1 day during the half terms, but not always. She does come in more over the summer.
     
  11. R13

    R13 New commenter

    I do about 708 hours a week and always do a fair amount during the holidays - 2 days each half term and longer at Christmas and Easter with a week or two in the summer.

    I can cope with the hours and the work . . . what I find difficut is actually shutting it out when I'm not working though, really turning off is difficult



     
  12. R13

    R13 New commenter

    That was supposed to be 70 hours not 708!!!!
     
  13. Nice one, Drachman!
     
  14. weesteve

    weesteve New commenter

    I tried working 708 hours per week once, but it wasn't sustainable.
     
  15. Thanks, Mickey and all the other heads who have found time (though I'm not quite sure how) to reply to my original query. Most of those who replied do seem to put in a 70/70+ hour week.
    Your 75 hours per week average, Mickey, means the equivalent of 8am to 7pm six days a week <u>without a break</u> and a nine hour day on Sunday.
    If you add to that the time spent travelling to and from work Mon.-Friday, I would regard that as a very stressful way of life, and one that leaves little time for family, friends or personal interests outside of the job.
    Still, as several heads have pointed out, it's your choice and you knew what you were taking on when you applied for the job.
    However, few have said whether they think it is good for them to put in so many hours. And really necessary ?
    I can't say - never been a Head, never wanted to be, but like Philosopher, in retrospect, I've never wished I'd spent more time on school work - and happily, I'm not quite on my death-bed yet !




     
  16. Sorry, I meant Philosophical, not Philosopher.
     
  17. jellandy

    jellandy New commenter

    I'm Head of 2 very small primary schools - less than 170 pupils across both schools - I work a 60 hr week on average... I don't have a teaching committment although I do 1:1 tuition, small group work etc. I rarely work weekends and am only in school in the evenings for Governor Meetings.
    What makes my workload manageable is a School Business Manager who leads on all the admin / premises / H&S stuff and a strong leadership team who have dedicated time to undertake their leadership duties.
    We all know that teaching isn't a 9-5 job, regardless of how the media presents it... why should Headship - which is an extension of teaching - be any different?? However, long working hours don't necessarily mean the job is being done any better - for teachers or Heads... it's about working smarter and making sure that time is being used most effectively. I firmly believe in the Head being a role model for staff - and that includes managing the work life balance!
     
  18. Im sorry Ive just read through all of these and cant believe this to be true at all. The only people working 70 hours a week must be complete control freak zealoted workaholics-this is not healthy, leads to a very insular existence and to be quite frank, utterly pointless.
     
  19. I think the question has to be at what point does the HT's time at school/work cease to be productive/effective and become more a case of attendance (in school or with work/computer in front of them) ? It could be argued that any head consistently working in excess of 55 hours a week is doing something wrong (delegation, resourcing, focus etc.) and should draft in some form of reviewer to discuss what the problem could be, often we do not see our work practices for what they are, as we ourselves are so programmed to it, an outside eye is a very useful tool. This also applies to all other staff, if they are consistently working over-long hours it is a school's duty to investigate why and help them with a solution, be that by resource or pattern change.
    As an aside, after a few meetings with staff regarding workload we decided to trial an early school closing deadline, asking all teaching staff to vacate the premises by 4.30, enforced by locking down classrooms. A significant number of teachers found this unacceptable, 2 of them suffering panic attacks as a result (not because of the fear of incarceration!). After the trial and more individual discussions we came to understand that many of our staff felt the need to linger in the building pottering about (their words not mine) after school, one called it her cool down period! One pressure staff felt stopping them from leaving earlier was that Leadership cars were still in the car park and it felt like skiving off if they were there. We have tried to promote leaving when you want (outside of directed time), but we are still having a few problems convincing certain staff.
    Hey ho
     
  20. That's a fascinating insight into staff attitudes, Thrupp - the feeling of guilt (panic attacks at leaving the class-room to go home!!) until SMT cars had left.
    It's surely a good discipline for the classroom teacher at the end of the day, for example, to sit down calmly with a cup of tea, plan for tomorrow, sort out worksheets and equipment needed next day, keep up to date with marking, record keeping, check what's on the school diary etc.
    I would argue that professional discipline should aim at the efficient use of time, and the good sense to say to oneself, "I've done a good day's work. I may have to take a limited amount of work home - an hour's work at the most - and do it - but that's it."
    As a secondary HoD, I certainly went through long phases feeling that I should work all weekend to produce materials, plans, departmental screeds, thoughts ... It was not an effective way of spending my time. It can easily become an obsession. It was destructive in family life and relationships with my children. Fortunately we survived - but I don't look back on it with any pleasure.
    Which is why I find your comment, Thrupp, most interesting: " It is a school's duty to investigate why and help them with a solution, be that by resource or pattern change."
     

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