Coventry teacher Nicky Downes: “Teachers working 60 hours need strikes, not studies”

Coventry teacher Nicky Downes: “Teachers working 60 hours need strikes, not studies” 

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Coventry Socialist Party member and teacher Nicky Downes

Nicky Downes is a Coventry teacher, union rep and a member of the Socialist Party. She wrote the below article about teacher workloads, which was carried in The Socialist newspaper – please read and share!

Teachers work an average of 48 hours a week, and some work more than 60. This is the finding of a new report from the Education Policy Institute think-tank.

The BBC highlighted this report with the headline “Many teachers ‘working 60-hour week'”.

Teachers know they work long hours. They know that by half term they are crawling to work. They know they neglect their family and friends. They know being tired is not good for the children they teach.

What teachers don’t want is another report telling us that, or ridiculous responses like ‘increasing class sizes reduces workload’. We want action to reduce workload.

In Coventry on 14 October we had our National Union of Teachers (NUT) reps’ training day. It was clear, where teachers are taking collective action in their schools, they are winning small concessions.

In my school, for example, we now have a minimum marking policy. It means that most of our marking is done in lessons and not at home at midnight. Compare that to the rep whose everyday marking involves so many different coloured pens that the students are now responding in pink crayon!

The success from winning concessions school by school is limited. Even if an NUT group goes as far as taking strike action, the success is limited to just one school.

We need national action for a national contract. A contract that limits working hours, and includes, for example, 20% ‘planning, preparation and assessment’ time, smaller class sizes, guaranteed training. It should also remove performance-related pay.

Nottingham’s Education Improvement Board has launched a voluntary ‘Fair Workload Charter’ forschools. It puts a cap on working time out of school at two hours a night. A move in the right direction.

Now we need a national campaign – including strike action, if necessary – that demands a national contract for all teachers in all areas. Teachers are sick of just being told we work 60-hour weeks. We need a national contract that ends this.

Are you a teacher affected by this issue? Do you agree with Nicky? Get in touch!

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