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High work intensity makes teacher’s jobs more demanding post-pandemic

While job quality improved in many other professions, a new study by academics at Cardiff University and IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, reveals the ongoing strain of teachers’ working conditions.

Unlike many other professionals who benefitted from increased flexibility during the pandemic, teachers who already worked at a higher intensity than other professionals and with lower control over their workloads did not experience equivalent changes to their working conditions. 

These factors have led to comparatively poorer job quality post-pandemic, particularly for those who expect to receive an Ofsted inspection in the next 12 months, and who work in schools with high levels of local deprivation. 

The findings, summarised in a report commissioned by the National Education Union (NEU), are based on data from over 6,800 teachers and teaching assistants, as well as over 15,000 responses from NEU members. 

The discourse on teacher workload frequently focuses on the total quantity of hours worked, however the researchers recommend that more attention should be given to reducing the intensity of each hour spent working. 

The researchers say that efforts to improve job quality in the profession must include, but go beyond, pay. Factors like job autonomy, employee engagement, career advancement, promotion opportunities, and flexible work options should also be considered. 

The findings underpin the report’s call for school inspection system reform to alleviate the burdens teachers experience in anticipation of inspections, and look out for teacher’s wellbeing. 

The study’s Principle Investigator Professor Alan Felstead (Cardiff University), said: ‘This study is unique in that it tracks how the jobs of teachers have changed since the pandemic. It highlights how working in schools has become relatively less attractive compared other professions – not just in terms of pay – but in terms of work intensity and access to flexible work arrangements. The fear of inspection makes the situation even worse’. 

Co-author Professor Franics Green, who is Professor of Work and Education Economics at IOE, said: “UCL research from before the pandemic showed that teachers’ work had been intensified to a much greater extent than other professional workers. In this new research, in collaboration with Cardiff University, we found that teachers continued to work after the pandemic at a very high pace and in worse conditions, driven by excessive workloads and the fear of inspections. The gap with other professions has widened. It is hardly surprising that England is facing a drastic recruitment shortfall and retains far too few of its newly trained teachers.” 

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