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English teachers - unfair workload

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by angrypixie, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. angrypixie

    angrypixie New commenter

    I have always felt that English teachers have a hard deal. Certainly our marking workload must be one of the heaviest, not only because we have to mark tons of writing, but also because it is so hard to jugde work objectively and give a mark/grade. Also, we have to create so many of our resources. I have been working as an LSA for the past two years and this has only confirmed what I always thought. In Science I see little work in the books, the teachers teach from text books and then mark a lot of work in the lessons with the students because there are right/wrong answers. Maths teach from a text book and do the same. RS and History are still better off than English teachers as they do have text books they can use. It does not seem fair that we get the same amouht of non-contact as other subjects. I know that all teachers work hard but English is definitely the worst. My husband is a music teacher and works nowhere near the hours I do, as does the drama teacher, yet he is always getting gifts and pats on the back when his students perform in front of parents. I know that concerts and drama rehearsals are hard work and stressful but they get time off timetable with the kids to rehearse whilst we cover their lessons. The best English teacher in my school works 3 days a week but actually works 5 even through the holidays so that she can do a really good job.
  2. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    When non-teachers complain that teachers have a cushy job, what with the long holidays and finishing work at 3pm, the best response is usually to tell them that if they think it's such a good job, they're welcome to change career. Something similar applies to those who complain about differences between subjects.

    It's all swings and roundabouts, and whilst I'm sure there are differences between subjects, it's difficult to measure, and I'm not sure it would be the same in all schools. My child used to have a library/reading lesson once a fortnight, which I think was her school's solution to providing English teachers with a bit more marking time. Some schools have textbooks for English, and some English departments put together plenty of shared resources for each topic, reducing planning that way.

    Perhaps you need to get together as a department and look at what you can do to reduce workload...
  3. angrypixie

    angrypixie New commenter

    In my current school we have a brilliant resources which we all share, but they need to be tweaked for every class. For example, there is a really good SOW online with powerpoints for each lesson for Merchant of Venice but my Year 9s are so weak and probably won't even be doing GCSE so this SOW is more or less uselsss to themm and I've had to totally adapt it.
    The fact that English teacher use library lessons/reading lessons justifies my point.....
  4. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    that might be what you see, but there is a lot you don't see. How long in a week do English teachers spend requisitioning practicals, checking equipment, completing risk assessments, setting up and packing away, The answers might be right/wrong in some cases, but how would you like to mark 100 required practicals, where every single students has done their own individual calculations based on their own results, and the teacher has to check every single one? Thee are dozens of such practicals , and they are compulsory, and certainly happening in your school. Science also has many question forms that are not right/wrong and have to be assessed and moderated. Science and maths require many more resources than English, and we make them ourselves too.

    I think you are just speaking from ignorance. As another poster has mentioned. If you think another subject is easier, do it yourself.
  5. GeordieKC

    GeordieKC Occasional commenter

    It does not help any classroom teacher when teachers start the game of which subject/key stage works hardest. From the thread above managers are far too likely to conclude English teachers should not take classes to the library, it is English teachers avoiding work. Not the intention of the OP, but, in my experience, a very typical outcome of open discussion of workload.

    If you really think another subject is easier to teach and less work, then perhaps you should consider changing what you teach! However be warned despite appearances the grass is not always greener.
  6. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    It is absolutely not unusual for a 0.6 teacher to work 5 days per week,and I mean in any subject.
    I do not agree with huge amounts of what you have said. Perhaps if you had said that the workload of a teacher is endless, then yes.
    But to state one subject is harder than another to deliver and monitor-no.
    Right across the board you get slackers and grafters, those who reinvent the wheel,those who share and those who don't, those who cut corners for efficiency and those who labour on and lose sleep. We all find our level in terms of acknowledging and coping with workload, and not once have I considered a major variable in this to be the actual subject you deliver.

    Unless it's PE, of course :p

    Edit-slight backtrack-I have to say that over the last two or three years in particular I have seen numerous IT teachers upsticks and go because of workload. I understand a major issue is reinvention of courses and impossible assessment cycles together with lack of curricular time, which don't seem to converge this way in other subjects. In which case, let's all hope this can be reviewed as soon as possible.
    agathamorse likes this.
  7. Lulabell77

    Lulabell77 New commenter

    I don't teach English but instead a portfolio subject at level 2 and level 3 and we have to mark every single word that is written in class over 2 years so I don't think that we have any less marking to do than an English dept. There are many depts in our school who have a similar range of courses where EVERYTHING is assessed even the discussions and role-plays done as part of the assessment.
    I myself am 0.6 but frequently work 5 days and at least one at the weekend and most evenings marking as well! But at least I can pick my child up on the 2 days im not in school.
    I think the fact that we get the same non contact time as other subjects unfair as well! I think every subject could make an argument for more non contact time!
  8. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I taught languages and by and large the majority of students with whom I worked felt that the subject was irrelevant to them / too hard / worthless / waste of time ... and in many ways I entirely got where they were coming from but I digress ..... alternatively most viewed English as something they felt they could ‘ do ‘ and their response in class and to their teachers was distinctly positive .... even if they struggled with aspects of the subject they understood its importance.....
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    jarndyce and Piranha like this.
  10. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    As an English teacher my response to this wavers between "yes", "maybe", and "depends on the school, and how much garbage your line-manager makes you do". However, I selected my subject specialism knowing it would mean marking tons of essays and pieces of creative writing. So there's no point grousing: we go into this job with our eyes open and of our own free will.

    Plus, at least as English is a mandatory subject, there are far more employment opportunities than for tecaher of options subjects. So while, yes, I have more marking at KS4 than, say, a Drama teacher, I probably have more options should I wish to change my working environment.
  11. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Try MFL. In some pieces of work each line contains any number of mistakes. If you write all the corrections in it takes ages. If you merely underline they say they don't know what is wrong. Peer marking is not effective.
  12. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I trained to teach maths knowing there would be far less marking and very little creativity.
    I also knew I'd be battling with parents who simply shrug and say "I was no good at maths either'.
    I also knew I'd see English colleagues who set a creative writing task where everyone gets on and writes by themselves for an hour or so, freeing the English teacher to get on with a bit of marking from another class.
    I also knew that English teachers could ask students to 'read the next 2 chapters in silence' for a bit of peace and quiet on a particularly naff day.

    However, I also knew I'd not have to mark masses and masses of prose, so didn't need those creative writing and reading lessons to try and keep on top of things.

    Then I stupidly moved to teach year 6 and had the best and worst of both worlds!!
    Now I'm in EYFS and teach some of the same things I taught in year 10 lower sets, but have absolutely zero marking!
    LOVE it!
    Piranha and agathamorse like this.
  13. Boardingmaster

    Boardingmaster New commenter

    I am forever grateful that as a maths teacher I just need to do a bit if ticking and crossing as appropriate, and that I can always fall back on a “page of sums from the textbook” lesson if life is busy. Plus there is no expectation of flowing prose in reports. All in all a pretty good gig!
  14. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    This is an old argument and one that only English teachers would be sympathetic to. My grouse about being an English teacher is the results pressure: it has become even more intense because of the double weighting of both Lang and Lit in Progress 8. The bottom line is this: English and maths scores make or break a school. Certainly, all results are important (as are all subjects) but it doesn't matter how stunning they are, lousy scores in the two core subjects creates a below P8 score.

    Therefore, SLT are a-knocking on my door EVERY WEEK (as a HoD) picking over the performance/prediction data requesting miracles from tired staff and recalcitrant teens. And the mock marking is incredible (and I don't mean that in a good way!). If you do a full set, that's four papers to mark per student: apart from two questions which are ticklists, the rest of the questions (all fourteen of them) require an extended written answer (it's sixteen questions in total across the four papers). That's on top of the daily workload requirements such as marking from KS3 and A Level etc. (For example, a top set Year 7 of thirty students is a poison-chalice of marking).

    My other gripe: when a student's timetable is collapsed because they can't access the full curriculum (a.k.a. terrible behaviour) , they still always have to do maths and English four hours a week.

    I have taught other subjects (such as history and - for a spell - maths) and they have different pressures and don't have it easy, either. But because of the intense pressure for results combined with the heavy marking load, English is a tough gig. One which we knew we were letting ourselves in for, but it's still tough.

    Oh - another thing: teaching a compulsory subject at KS4 comes with it's own stresses - as any English, maths or sciences teacher will tell you. It always makes me laugh when a good friend of mine in the staff room - a PE teacher - whinges about non-athletic and non-academic students (because of the theory) who opt for PE and they can't 'persuade' the student to opt for another subject.... I hear that particular pain of teaching kids who struggle and still have to get a decent result out of them.

    Another perk of being a non-Core teacher: when Ofsted come a'calling, the planning is easier. My colleague in the classroom next door (history) has to essentially plan one lesson per year group (occasionally two) and tweak depending on the class. Core subject teachers will see the same class up to three times during an inspection (not so much these days for 1-2 day inspections) so have more planning to do. In my last Ofsted inspection (2018), the English and maths teachers were all observed twice each (mostly in the same day) for full hours at a time. No other subjects were observed.

    Oh - and to finish - one of my English colleagues spent several years as a Food Tech teacher and then HoS (but he was actually trained in English - long story!) and now he's returned to English he swears that it was a walk in the park comparative to teaching English.

    However, as other posters have pointed out, there really is no point arguing about this - unless you have taught English, how could you compare? There are some 'perks', though - parents always want to speak to you at parents evening; getting intervention time is easier (because of results); we tend to have a better grasp of data and progression (thanks to working with KS2 and P8 data) because we have no choice; and often the students begrudgingly 'value' our subject because they need it (not always or as often as we'd like, but it is a stick we can shake at them from time to time). These things help. Oh yeah - and as another poster has pointed out: there are LOADS of English vacancies at the moment - I wonder why that can be?
    VeronicAmb, jarndyce, tb9605 and 2 others like this.
  15. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    I have taught all subjects in both primary, and "primary model" schools, English is definitely not the biggest work load by any means. There are swings and roundabouts, but I'd still say science has a bigger load than English. Just the risk assessments for a week can take a couple of hours, and that is before all the setting up and tidying away that science requires that English doesn't, and the marking is hard too, plenty of essays and extended writing, although the calculations probably take longer to mark. And come the mocks, 6 papers per student.

    But that is just the particular school I was in, where I taught both science and English. It is going to vary a lot from school to school, department to department, depending on resources, leadership, students etc.
    agathamorse and border_walker like this.
  16. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    And of course, PE staff regularly have after school and weekend fixtures, on top of all the academic work
    agathamorse likes this.
  17. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    I think most subjects have a similar workload, to be frank.

    Mind you, I'm suspicious about the sciences - in my last school, I looked at the job description for a lab technician, and found that it encompassed not just the big stuff such as setting up practicals, but the routine admin tasks (ordering books, photocopying, stationery orders, etc) that were part of my own remit as a Head of English...

    Marking in English isn't particularly time consuming, providing that:
    - your school/department has a sensible policy
    - you have a sensible 'policy' (ie - you do not need to write reams and reams of feedback. The kids won't read it.)
    - you have a fairly respectable reading speed.

    I taught a modern language at KS3, and found the marking far more arduous. A whole class full of identical exercises where you have to check every single word!
    agathamorse likes this.
  18. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    I thought "routine admin tasks" such of those were NOT the remit of any teacher... surely you have some support staff in your school; reprographics, finance, admin. Aren't they meant to do those admin tasks for you?
  19. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    I value all subjects taught at school.

    But anyone who disagrees with OP is just nuts! Yes, I may be a little subjective (ex-English teacher/HoD). But seriously - I don't understand how one can really compare marking 60+ essays with a couple of hours of risk assessments for science practicals. It's not the same and don't pretend that it is!

    No matter how often you stare at their books, you try and decipher handwriting that looks like chicken scratches! I swear I'd have a much easier time reading and understanding what's on the Rosetta Stone! This make the whole marking process so much harder.

    Yes, students may write the answer. But what good is it if that sentence is too flowery, too long, too clumsy? You have to take so many other things into consideration when you mark an English paper.

    Don't even get me started on what it's actually like teaching English. Any of you science or maths teachers ever had the wonderful task of sitting through a one hour lesson of students stuttering over words, incorrect pronunciations at every other word, missing lines out, the monotonous tone of readers, etc. (this is another issue but still).

    A teacher of English is not for the faint-hearted and I do believe English teachers should be allowed more PPA time over other subject teachers.
  20. colacao17

    colacao17 Occasional commenter

    Science teachers spend lots of time preparing and setting up practical work. We envy the ease with which you can print a 3 line question which will keep your students busy for a whole class developing an essay response which self differentiates by that very response. Is this unfair? You bet it is.

    Maybe you should have chosen a different subject. Maybe you could switch to drama? (Good look with all the castings, rehearsals, set design and school show shenanigans.)
    agathamorse likes this.

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