Teacher Workload ‘Out of Control’

Teacher Workload ‘Out of Control’

The SSTA has completed a survey of its members to help identify the extra workload placed upon teachers associated with the implementation of the New Qualifications.

This is in response to SSTA members across Scotland asking for some action to be taken to address the workload that is demoralising teachers in the current qualification cycle.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said “the situation that teachers face in schools today in trying to do the best for their young people is unmanageable. The survey is clear evidence that the requirements of the new qualifications are ‘out of control’ and are an imposition upon secondary school teachers.

“Teachers have insufficient time to carry out the over-bureaucratic arrangements set out by Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The SSTA is requesting Local Authorities, as the employers of teachers, to take control of the situation and impose limits on teacher time being spent on such activities that are taking teachers away from teaching and learning”.

The survey showed that teachers are being required to teach different courses within the same class at the same time. 47% were teaching two courses (e.g. N4 and N5), 23% teaching three courses and 3% teaching 4 courses.

The survey showed that in the Working Time Agreements that identify contractual work required of teachers 95% said they had not been given any additional time to complete the tasks.

When it came to the additional teacher time required for completing the various tasks specified by the SQA:

  • Marking Unit Assessments – 14% of teachers were spending up to 10 hours; 31% more than 10 hours with 55% spending more than 20 hours
  • Marking Added Value Units – 30% of teachers were spending up to 10 hours; 31% more than 10 hours with 34% spending more than 20 hours
  • Internal moderation – 55% of teachers were spending up to 10 hours; 26% more than 10 hours with a further 17% of teachers spending more than 20 hours per course.
  • External verification – 51% of teachers were spending up to 10 hours, 18% more than 10 hours with 10% spending more than 20 hours.
  • Data entry – 54% of teachers were spending up to 10 hours, 27% more than 10 hours with 18% spending more than 20 hours

Comments made by SSTA members

“Yet again the profession is faced with significant externally imposed demands on time in respect of developing poorly specified courses with totally inadequate levels of detailed prescription and support materials being made available”

“We have been inundated with new courses, new requirements, and new assessments for SQA at the same time as new IT reporting. We are TOTALLY demoralised, worn out”

“In near 40 years of teaching, I have never had such a workload. Marking unit assessments and assignments takes a huge amount of time as pupils must attain 100% of the criteria or they fail. This is unacceptable”.

“There are times that I feel like I am drowning in bureaucracy and ambiguity. I am not enjoying my job as much as I used to, and I feel that my ability to teach effectively has decreased as I am spending more time deciphering vague assessment guidelines and sifting through red tape”.

“As a profession we are at breaking point. Workload has tripled in the last 3-4 years. Managers in the school are not listening to concerns and outside agencies are not listening. We are drowning in paper as an entire generation of young people lose out on their birth right to a world class education”.

“I am a Faculty Head of 31 years’ experience. In terms of workload, the last 5 years have been by far the worst in my career, working 7 days a week with Monday to Friday regularly being 10 hour days.

“My workload is steadily becoming less and less manageable. I have extra marking to do thanks to internal assessment of new Nat 3, 4, 5 and Higher qualifications. Also our school has implemented a new tracking system for S1-3 which requires a large amount of data input. This of course means less time for preparing materials etc.”.

Euan Duncan, SSTA President said

“This survey has highlighted the challenge teachers have been dealing with in delivering the new qualifications and the lack of understanding that SQA and employers have in addressing teacher workload. It appears that assessment is being carried out for assessment’s sake and that teachers are not being allowed to develop their teaching”.

Further information from

Seamus Searson
General Secretary

0131 313 7300

22 December 2015


Please note that the survey was taken over a two week period with 1244 responses.