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Workload at primary schools

Discussion in 'Primary' started by opalfeet, Sep 7, 2020.

  1. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    Considering changing from secondary to primary. It is possible in my area, as there is demand for teachers whatever sector. I've heard that primary workload is horrendous. I don't want to increase workload as I have two young children, happy to swap like for like in terms of workkoad. Can anyone comment on this or have any experience? Thanks
  2. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    Depends on what you are used to! Most staff have at least 30/60 books to mark each night ( but some will be tick and turn, some will be fully marked. ) Planning can vary enormously depending on the school, some schools still insist on bells and whistles planning with 5 way differentiated activities, some schools just expect weekly overviews. Most primary teachers I know work 2/3 hours per night and at least one day at the weekend. Most primary teachers are also subject leaders so there’s work associated with that. I think statistics show that primary teachers work a couple of hours more a week than secondary but that probably depends on the secondary subject you teach!
    Kartoshka likes this.
  3. Jeremyinspain

    Jeremyinspain Occasional commenter

    I started my career in secondary (1983-1988), teaching mostly A and O-Levels and GCSEs. I then retrained for primary and have taught there ever since.

    When I changed, I remember at the time thinking that primary was more 'full-on'. In primary, you never get to 'repeat' a lesson. Every lesson in the week is new, as opposed to (for example) my two A-Level Politics groups where the planning for one lesson covered both, pretty much.

    The younger I went in primary - the less marking each child produced, but then my A-Level classes were much smaller than my primary classes, so you're comparing eight 4-page essays on the power of the Prime Minister with 24 exercise books with some creative writing inside.

    Preparation is very much a 'how long is a piece of string' issue, but again, with secondary, I was often preparing one lesson which I could teach to three classes.

    It's now a long time since I switched, so I can't really comment on secondary teachers' workloads in this (probably more pressurised) age. I'm pretty convinced that primary teaching has become more difficult, time-consuming and pressurised. Even discounting the fact that I moved to Spain in 2006, I've kept in touch with enough primary colleagues to know that it's probably even worse there than it is in my school in España - which itself has 'tightened up' its policies (and become much more 'British') over the years.

    In the end, for me, I just found that I enjoyed primary, and it enabled me to travel more easily. There still aren't that many A.Level Politics jobs on the international circuit - compared to 'primary dogsbody' roles.

    It would be interesting to know why you're considering the move. For me, I'd helped in my wife's (primary) school and enjoyed it; we wanted to travel; and primary seemed to provide a closer relationship with a class which was yours for a year. This last point is probably what's kept me in the primary classroom for so long, and not 'up the greasy pole'.

    Try to get some time in a primary class to get a feel for it. I did a one year secondment at Homerton to re-qualify. Is there such a thing available for you somewhere now? That experience alone would tell you whether it's for you or not. Of the 20-or-so on my course, 2 fled straight back to secondary at the end of the year, the other 18 of us continued on our way... I think another couple went back within a couple of years, but then I lost touch with most.
  4. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    I teach a level and I have 20 plus in each class. So not 8 in a class like the good old days. There's no way I ever ever want to work one day a weekend or 2/3 hours per night ever again. Been there, done that and got the t shirt. Anyone here have a worklife balance?
  5. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    I've done supply for primary, enjoyed it, got littlies now too and to be honest I want a change from horrid teenagers.
  6. carriecat10

    carriecat10 Established commenter Community helper

    I swapped from Secondary (PE & maths) to Primary years ago and found I had to spend more time planning, marking etc.
    When my children were small I brought it home with me and worked later in the evenings when they were in bed. When they were older and more independent I would work at school and would rarely bring work home. I always found I needed to do some work at the weekends and holidays to keep on top of things. This was at 2 schools where there were not undue expectations on teachers so I have considered myself lucky.
    Make the change if you believe this is where you will be happiest teaching. I have always felt it is a very different job - for me I found the 'fit' better in the Primary phase.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  7. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    Pretty much the only way to have that is by working part time
  8. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Try independent prep schools then. Might also be what you'd like as you could well teach up to year 8.

    I am generally at work from about 7.45 - .5.00 and do almost nothing at home.
    We also get around 16 weeks holiday a year, though most do work for about a fortnight of those.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  9. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    @caterpillartobutterfly Thanks I will look into that. Although there's only a few in my area. I am happy to work 2 hours on top of my working day in the evening and g into work an hour before school begins. But that's all I want to give up.
  10. claracat

    claracat New commenter

    I switched from being a secondary English teacher to a primary teacher (year 5) a few years ago and I can honestly say I find the planning and work load better in primary. There are a lot more resources aimed at primary teaching which I can use and adapt, whereas for secondary the planning load was massive as I often had to plan every lesson from scratch. It most likely depends on the school you end up working for in terms of what is expected but I have found the switch to primary to be positive and manageable. I work some evenings and do three or so hours on a weekend. As I have young kids I feel it's important to set limits. Good luck if you do decide to switch to primary.
  11. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Established commenter

    I was in the primary sector for 38 years (1982-2020)- 23 years of those as a headteacher so I can definitely offer my views. Comparing primary to secondary, as a primary teacher, you generally have more accountability for teaching more subjects, so the responsibility would be some sort of ‘greater’ and you pretty much teach the same class, whereas secondary it is different classes. My advice would be (to you and other teachers looking to join primary) - manage your workload, keep up to date with marking/planning (don’t let it build up) otherwise you’ll find you will get behind rather quick. Perhaps, one evening a week work late and get your admin completed then. It’s important that you strike an effective work life balance - if you don’t have to take any work home with you, then don’t! There will be times when you have to, but if you manage your time well, then this should be minimal!
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  12. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    Thank you, a range of views here.

    Perhaps it's not as bad as it sounds. Like I say I don't mind working 2 hours in the evening Monday to Thursday and on a Sunday plus go in an hour early in the mornings. Any more than that though and I think it's just too much.
    I keep hearing the workload for primary is worse though, I'm not sure what makes it more difficult. I guess the fact that there's more to plan as you're teaching a range of subjects. However, aren't there schemes of work in place etc and collaborative planning to help with this?
    Food for thought here though and I guess the workload is what you make it, in part at least.
  13. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    You're always going to find a wide range of opinions as to 'manageble /reasonable' workload.
    But your comment
    is probably correct in that you are responsible fir every subject on the curriculum and you won't feel as confident in every one.

    The 'SoW' are often more 'general' than the prescriptive ones for exams at Secondary and often 'collegial support' isn't always there because you may be the only person teaching that year group.
    And then you feel you've really got to grips with the SoW / requirements of the curriculum in say Year 4 and you get transferred to Year 2 and you have to start all over again. That means a lot of prep in the summer when you get to grip with the requirements of every subject on the curriculum for that age range.
    littlejackhorner likes this.
  14. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    Thank you. Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  15. littlejackhorner

    littlejackhorner Senior commenter

    To some extent, however a lot is beyond your control. I moved from one job where expectations were realistic, alongside planning with a parallel teacher to a small school where I planned on my own and was expected to put in lots of unnecessary detail. This was when I had been teaching 25+ years so it wasn't that I lacked experience.
    Slave1138 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  16. Bentley51

    Bentley51 Occasional commenter

    The issue with workload in primary schools (possibly all schools for that matter) comes down to the individual school and your attitude towards fighting workload issues. If you land in a school where the leadership team think having colour-coded lesson plans and scripts of written feedback in books for 7 year olds is the way to be 'outstanding', and you are someone who tends to just do as you're told as confrontation and/or a bad reputation is the last thing that you want, then being a primary teacher could well be your hell (or heaven if you live for work and have no life of your own)!

    If you are someone who is happy to professionally challenge leaders when they ask for ridiculous/pointless tasks to be completed, or unreasonable deadlines to be met, and you are able to prioritise the key tasks and forget the rest, then you have a strong chance of being happy and healthy in primary.

    The perfect situation is you land in a primary school where the leadership are sensible, don't expect ridiculously in-depth planning and focus more on quality resources that support the teaching and learning. On top of this, they don't publicly celebrate the martyrs' 18-hour shifts as a passive-aggressive way of telling everyone else that they should be doing the same and you are left to teach and carry out the important tasks that actually contribute to better teaching or better learning experiences.

    In my first couple of years in primary teaching, I felt inferior and somewhat useless because I tried to do everything that was demanded of me by SLT, whilst trying to keep up with teachers of 10/15 years experience who were fundamentally kiss-a*ses and the worst type of humans: martyrs. I was miserable! Now, however, I focus on what is important, openly and professionally refuse to be drawn in to completing pointless tasks (some are unavoidable, I concede) and I go home in my evenings and on the weekends, and can forget work completely. This rejuvenates me and makes me want to go the extra mile for the kids, with after-school clubs, supporting additional school trips, running the football team, supporting the choir etc. If I have been battered by SLT's paper exercises, I just wouldn't have the energy or interest.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  17. opalfeet

    opalfeet Occasional commenter

    @Bentley51 I simply cannot do too much extra work.

    1. I'm a bit long in the tooth for that.
    2. I have two littlies.

    I, of course would be happy to do the work required to ensure the children are learning.

    It is probably about finding the right school and asking the right questions at interview (if I get to interview). And if they don't like my questions, I guess they're not the right school!
  18. Slave1138

    Slave1138 New commenter

    The martyrs are a pitiful lot, indeed, but are surely trumped by those sycophantic enough to become exam whisperers.
    Bentley51 likes this.
  19. SadieForever

    SadieForever New commenter

    I have taught both at primary for several years and also at secondary several years. I agree with others that how they compare depends on several aspects (the subject you teach at secondary, the expectations of the schools, the key stage of the children, the schools behaviour management you work at etc.)

    I personally know English Secondary teachers seem to find primary teaching easier in regards to workload. However, I happen to know several teachers (including couples who one works at primary and one at secondary). In those cases they all say the primary school teacher has a more intense workload but again that may be due to the subjects of the people I know. It appears that primary overall seem to have more expectations to do more marking, more detailed planning and take on more responsibilities whilst not being paid for it. Whilst secondary school teachers are specialists in one area and don’t feel they are having to juggle as many plates. With the people I know working at different schools, the secondary schools seem to have more reasonable expectations of their staff than the primary school. This continues to surprise me yet from what the people I know tell me, and from my own personal experience, this continues to be the case.

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