The majority of primary-level teaching staff believe the government could do better, with just 2% of participants claiming they felt “very supported” and giving the government top marks.
There is an overwhelming sense of exhaustion among the nation’s teachers as they head off for the summer break, worn out by what has arguably been the most disruptive term the world has ever seen.
Participants reported feeling stressed after a period in which their workloads were significantly increased, as the remote teaching and learning measures implemented in response to the pandemic forced them to adapt to previously unexplored ways of working in just a matter of weeks.
“I think we are undervalued and expected to change our approach without adequate warning,” said one SENCO English teacher from an independent primary school in a survey by ET. “We seem to be working harder than usual and yet the whole country is in lockdown. I have lost all of my weekends, and the Easter holiday and am likely to lose my half term.”
Most of PlanBee’s participants described themselves as “exhausted”, with one respondent calling it a “different type of exhausted” when compared with previous years. Many others cited feelings of relief that the summer term was over, but are not hopeful that the break will be a time for rest and recuperation. Some 42% have already started preparation for the coming academic year, claiming that lesson planning would be by far the biggest drain on their time. Sadly, there may be little rest for some, since more than a quarter (27%) of respondents said that next term’s prep would take place over the summer holiday.
Just 10% of PlanBee’s participants said they will have no chance to relax and “switch off” from school over the break. On a scale of 1–5, with five being the highest chance of switching off, 27% placed their chances at a 2, with just 9% rating their chances at the highest level of 5.
This falls in line with Education Support‘s findings, which found that as school closures and remote teaching and learning continued, 59% of primary-level teachers were feeling higher levels of stress than normal.
According to a recent report from the National Foundation for Education Research, 90% of parents whose children were out of school in April this year reported receiving school work for their child to complete at home, while at least 94% of primary students received work to finish at home. On top of this, almost half (42%) of primary pupils took part in at least three offline lessons per day throughout this period.
Forty percent of PlanBee’s teacher respondents said that planning and prep took up the majority of their time, while 25% cited communication with parents as their most time-consuming task.
Additionally, while 32% felt that the time they spent on actual teaching had been considerably reduced, 39% said they had been doing much less marking and feedback.
“[The lockdown] has made me realise how much work we do that is not teaching, how stressful a normal school day is, with the pressures and workload on both pupils and teachers. But it has also made me see how important our role is and how much we help children and families on a daily basis,” said a state primary school teacher in a survey by ET.
Teachers’ faith in the government may be dwindling, but more than half reported feeling supported by their schools as they tackled remote working from home, with 51% of respondents giving their organisation top marks.
Their perception of the media, on the other hand, is damning; on a scale of 1–5, with five being the highest rating, almost half (49%) of respondents gave journalists and the media a ranking of 1.
One respondent exclaimed that the teaching profession is being “portrayed in the media that we have six weeks off!”.
Catherine Lynch, senior resource creator at PlanBee, commented: “The survey findings, which were gathered just as term was ending, provide a really interesting snapshot of the state of the profession – ‘exhausted’, in a word. The government made huge demands of teachers during lockdown and the results are clear to see. Teachers are used to being tired at the end of the school year, but this year is clearly different in terms of what the term has taken out of them and their feelings of trepidation at the prospect of what the next one will bring.”