23 SES 14 A, Education Reforms and Teachers' Work Experiences
In this paper, we explore the discourses of individual and collective action which emerge from trade union policy about teacher workload in England. We begin with a comparative analysis of the various conceptions of teachers’ work and work-time across the three main teacher trade unions: National Union of Teachers (NUT), National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). Following this, we examine the range of individual and collective actions supported by the unions to reduce teacher workload and promote work-life balance. Finally, we assess the appropriateness of the policy responses and their implications for the teaching profession and professionalism.
In recent decades, teachers globally have been subject to increased standardization and surveillance of their professional practice (Hoyle and Wallace, 2009; Sachs, 2003). Part of a broader Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), national policy reforms have led to the intensification of teachers’ work and redefined the nature of the professional task (Stevenson, Carter and Passy, 2007). While legislation in certain EU member states limits overtime for workers, the same protections are not enjoyed by workers in the UK. In a recent report by the Education Policy Institute, a fifth of teachers in England work more than 60 hours per week (Kentish, 2016). The consequences of such work overload are both personal and professional. With a reduced sense of efficacy, and little time for reflection and professional learning (Ballet, Kelchtermans and Loughran, 2016), many teachers face exhaustion, stress and professional burnout, which are detrimental to recruitment and retention and the development of a sustainable teaching profession (Kentish, 2016; Sellen, 2016).
Recent national and local actions such as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union’s Make One Change campaign and the Nottingham schools Fair Workload Charter have brought teacher workload and the concept of work-life balance to the forefront of professional policy discussion. Yet, work-life balance is a contested concept in popular and academic discourses. Emerging in the middle of the twentieth century with the increased feminization of labour (Fagan, 2001), business and management scholars have centered debate on policies and practices promoted at organizational level and the mutual benefits to employees and employers (Darcy, McCarthy, Hill and Grady, 2012; Khallash and Kruse, 2012), whereas sociologists have sought to provide a more holistic perspective of work-time conflict which accounts for the heterogeneity of experiences and interests in the occupational group, diverse cultural definitions, and the significance of both the economic and the temporal to work-life balance (Compton and Lyonette, 2006; Warren, 2015). Lately, academics across these fields have noted the shifting discourses at policy and organizational level which construe work-life balance as a matter of individual responsibility (McManus, 2009). In education, this latter trend might be conceptualised as a process of ‘self-care’ (Ball and Olmedo, 2012) in which teachers alone must manage the challenges of work-life integration (Gunter et al, 2005).
Using critical discourse analysis (CDA) as a methodological approach, we explore the teacher trade union policy discourses of teacher workload, work-time and work-life balance. Adopting a feminist critical theoretical framework, we investigate the extent to which trade unions have adopted individualized strategies for dealing with work-life imbalance, whether their actions are both feasible and appropriate to teachers as a heterogeneous group, and how the policy response might in fact contribute to the continued exploitation of teachers (Marshall, 1997). Ultimately, we aim to understand the implications of these discourses for teacher professionalism in England, Europe and internationally.
Acker, J. (2012). Gendered organizations and intersectionality: problems and possibilities in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 31:3, 214-224. Ball, S. (2013). Foucault, Power, and Education. New York, NY: Routledge. Ballet, K., Kelchtermans, G. & Loughran, J. (2006). Beyond intensification towards a schotarship of practice: analysing changes in teachers' work lives. Teachers and Teaching, 12(2), 209-229. Crompton R. and Lyonette C. (2006) Work-Life ‘Balance’ in Europe in Acta Sociologica, 49:4, 379-393. Darcy, C., McCarthy, A., Hill, J., & Grady, G. (2012). Work-life balance: One size fits all? An exploratory analysis of the differential effects of career stage in European Management Journal, 30, 111-120. Fairclough N. (2010) Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London: Routledge. Gunter, H., Rayner, S., Thomas, H., Fielding, A., Butt, G. and Lace, A. (2005). Teachers, time and work: findings from the Evaluation of the Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder Project. School Leadership and Management, 25 (5), 451-454. Hoyle E. and Wallace M. (2009) Leadership for professional practice in S. Gewirtz, P. Mahony, I. Hextall and A. Cribb (2009) (eds.) Changing Teacher Professionalism: International trends, challenges and ways forward. Abingdon: Routledge (pp.204-214). Kentish B. (2016) Teachers in England work longer hours than almost anywhere else in the world in The Independent [online]. Last updated on Monday 10 October 2016. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/teachers-england-longest-hour-pay-schools-education-a7353496.html Khallash, S. & Kruse, M. (2012). The future of work and work-life balance 2025. Futures, 44:7, 678-686. Marshall, C. (1997). Feminist Critical Policy Analysis: A perspective from post-secondary education. London: Taylor & Francis. Sachs, J. (2001). Teacher professional identity: competing discourses, competing outcomes. Journal of Education Policy, 16:2, 149-161. Sellen P. (2016) Long hours and low pay: why England’s teachers face burnout in The Guardian [online]. Last updated on 11 October 2016. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/oct/11/teachers-reeling-under-massive-workload-report Sprague J. (2016) Feminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers: Bridging Differences. London: Rowman & Littlefield. Stevenson, H., Carter, B., & Passy, R. (2007). “New Professionalism,” Workforce Remodeling and the Restructuring of Teachers’ Work. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning, 11:15. Warren, T. (2015) Work-life balance/imbalance: the dominance of the middle class and the neglect of the working class. The British Journal of Sociology, 66:4, 691-717.
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