Research from Sparx reveals the true extent of the teacher workload crisis

The research, commissioned by edtech company Sparx, suggests that the national curriculum, written marking and Ofsted are key pressure points for teachers

In new research commissioned by edtech company Sparx, 70% of teachers agreed that the teacher workload crisis is impacting student uptake of extra-curricular activities, with almost 50% of respondents seeking mental health support due to work-related stress.

Crucial to the development of both soft and social skills, on top of being linked to positive learning outcomes and attendance rates, extra-curricular clubs and activities are an integral part of a holistic learning experience. Yet, due to the extent of teacher workloads, the majority of survey participants agree that access to these learning opportunities is being significantly reduced.

The research suggests that the demands of the national curriculum, time spent on ineffective written marking, and Ofsted are key pressure points for teachers. Surveying over 1,000 UK primary and secondary school teachers, the research also revealed the growing influence of teachers’ fast-increasing workloads on the current teacher recruitment and retention dilemma, with key statistics including:

– Almost half (46%) of teachers have sought mental health support due to stress related to their job
– 90% of teachers agree that the demands of the school curriculum contribute to extreme workload
– 70% of teachers would discourage someone from joining the teaching profession due to workload expectations
– Despite Ofsted’s new focus on teacher wellbeing, only 26% respondents agreed that this focus would reduce teacher workload

With rising concerns surrounding staff mental health and wellbeing, the survey also emphasised the immediacy of workload pressures, with more than 56% of young people (aged 18–24) already having sought mental health support due to job-related stress.

Despite these challenges and the urgent need to eliminate the teacher workload crisis, teachers’ priorities remain altruistic and support student development, with 72% of teachers agreeing that they would like to spend more time on personalised student support, exam preparation and Continued Professional Development.  

 “Our school tries to provide a wide range of extra-curricular activities for students, but the workload of teachers can make this a challenge,” said Jo Williams, deputy head of maths at Coombeshead Academy. “If staff have piles of marking and paperwork then activities and clubs have to be cancelled which means students miss out on valuable enrichment activities. Extra-curricular activities help children to broaden their understanding of a subject, to contextualise their learning and to develop softer skills like communication and team working.” 

“Until very recently managing my workload had been a constant challenge,” explained Hannah White, assistant head of All Saints Academy Plymouth. “There was never enough time to plan lessons, find resources or think ahead. This excessive burden on workload really took a toll on my mental health. This school year, things are much better. We’ve introduced some new maths focused educational technology which has saved lots of time. It’s been transformative, it has given me the time back to be able to focus on the reason why I got into the profession – the teaching.” 

With 90% of teachers expressing that they would welcome access to technology to reduce workloads, it’s important that Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson continues his advocacy of innovative education technology in playing a central role in affecting positive change. 

“Addressing a challenge as detrimental as teacher workload demands the cooperation and collaboration of the education sector as a whole,” said Dan Sandhu, CEO of Sparx. 

“It is vital to ensure that young people have the skills and knowledge to thrive in life and fulfil their potential. We understand the significance of supporting teachers and students and are committed to bringing together education leaders, policy makers, teachers, parents and education technology innovators to find impactful and sustainable solutions.” 

In related news: Three quarters of teachers and school leaders want proof that edtech works in the classroom