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Teachers union calls for workload review

The teachers union, Gibraltar NASUWT, has called on the Department for Education review the amount of work imposed on teachers in and out of their working hours.

According to NASUWT, teachers are suffering from high levels of burnout as a result of “unreasonably high demands” and workload being placed upon them.

Some teachers in Gibraltar are beginning to get concerned about their wellbeing, the union claimed.

This comes as NASUWT published the third round of results from an online survey it conducted in January of this year to gauge teacher satisfaction on a number of important issues in education.

In a statement the teachers union explained that the ‘Big Question Survey 2018’ is the first of a much wider longitudinal research exercise to measure the general health of Gibraltar’s education system, as well as the perceptions and wellbeing of the teaching complement.

This edition of the ‘Big Question Survey’ had 216 responses, which translates to a 57% response rate.

The previous instalment of results from the survey revealed that teachers in Gibraltar have experienced a marked increase in workload and in the amount of time spent in and out of their stipulated working hours planning, marking and doing admin-related work.

“Like our colleagues in the UK, many of whom are suffering from high levels of burnout as a result of unreasonably high demands and workload being placed upon them, some teachers in Gibraltar are beginning to get concerned about their wellbeing,” NASUWT said.

They reported that continued setting and marking of assessments, administration tasks, and increased volume of classroom marking are the top workload generators impacting their daily teaching and home life.

According to NASUWT, workload is the biggest concern that teachers in Gibraltar have about their job, followed by curriculum reform and working conditions.

The survey found that 85% of teachers frequently worry about work problems when they are not working, with 11% saying they are unable to relax at home.

Additionally, 45% said that their job prevents them from giving the amount of time they would like to their family and friends.
The perception that one cannot switch off from the work environment is not exclusive to teachers, the union said.

“It is also evident in other professions where a high level of responsibility is placed on providing care services for individuals e.g. health and/or social care professionals.”

“These feelings can lead to burnout and if sustained for long enough can begin to affect the quality of the service provided to users.”

In addition to this, NASUWT said, the effects of high workload on wellbeing are exacerbated by the fact that less than a quarter of teachers who responded to the survey said that they felt managed in a way that empowers them to deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.

“Many teachers reported that they do not feel that their professional judgement is taken into account when educational decisions have to be taken, making them feel disempowered and unvalued in that particular context.”

“The danger of this is that high workload combined with low control in the workplace has been shown to correlate significantly with negative effects on physical and mental health if sustained for a prolonged period of time.”

Conversely, the teachers union highlighted how 84% of teachers responding to the survey said that they feel respected as professionals, and 77% said that their work is valued by senior management at schools.

Furthermore, 60% said that they feel satisfied or very satisfied about being a teacher, with only 16% reporting strong feelings of dissatisfaction with their job.

A spokesperson for Gibraltar NASUWT said: “These results highlight the value of our teachers in that even with them being exposed to ever increasing levels of pressure and workload, they continue to work hard to deliver a meaningful education programme to their students and make their learning experience a positive and interactive one.”

“Teachers in Gibraltar love to teach and have real public service values.”

“We must not allow for unreasonable workload, over-assessment of students and admin work to get in the way of high quality teaching and learning.”

“We call on the Department of Education to review the amount of work imposed on teachers in and out of their working hours to ensure that a reasonable work-life balance can be established and that teachers can feel empowered to help their students flourish in their studies.”

“We also eagerly await the Department’s report on their recent visit to Finland on ways to enhance our education system and hopefully implement changes that will help us move away from some of the more noxious practices we have inherited from the UK education system.”

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