Workload in Education: How do we have work-life balance?

It has been reported in an NUT article ”Teacher’s workload is at unprecedented levels. The most
recent DfE teacher workload survey in 2016, showed teachers are working on average 54.4 hours a
week. We are losing far too many good teachers. An exhausted, dispirited teacher is not what
children or parents want or deserve.” This figure is likely to be much higher in recent months
because of the Covid lockdown and the sudden change posed upon all in education (and in
business) to deliver online lessons in a relatively short time, many of whom have little or no
experience of such a new mode of delivery.
One of the key reasons I embarked on my own SEJ journey (much earlier than the pandemic hit
globally in 2020) was because I became aware of stressful thoughts and that my health and
wellbeing started to suffer. I was diagnosed with Hypertension, and I said enough was enough. Why
would I wish to carry on the way I was living, or more accurately, why should these stressful limiting
thoughts stop me from living a healthy fulfilled life? Once I started on the SEJ I realised it was not
the actual workload per se but my own thoughts about the work and the unrealistic expectations I
placed upon ‘myself’. It also gave me a huge opportunity to reflect and review about my work/life
balance and even if the career I have chosen was a right one for me.
In 2017 book The Elephant in the Staffroom, Chris Eyre writes extensively about teacher stress
and how best to manage it. In conclusion, Eyre says: “Our wellbeing is at least partly our
responsibility. We can and must help ourselves and each other.” 
This is very true. Through practicing the SEJ Process I have come to realise that I have the
capacity and ability to ride the wave of life no matter how challenging it may be, that indeed it is
the way I respond to life that can have an impact on my experience of life and also to those
around me. I saw clearly that everyone was doing the best they could and no matter what I tried I
was not going to create more than 24 hours in a day!!
It took a health scare to shake me up, but I am glad it did. If you ARE feeling tired and overwhelmed
and it is constantly affecting all other areas of your life this could be your opportunity to review
your life, maybe this is the LIFE knocking on your door asking, ‘is this what you really want of life?’.
Covid has brought many challenging issues to the fore, some we never had even considered, but
this could be the very opportunity we have been given to review and renew the way we live our
lives. This applies also to the education system, during the lockdown the national curriculum was
side-lined and its purpose has since been questioned and discussed.
Perhaps this is the golden opportunity to really ask deep questions about the current education
system and whether it is relevant and purposeful to the needs of children and young people for
their overall wellbeing and future prospects. Out of the ‘illness’ of covid we will find healthy and
genuine wellbeing for all in educational settings.

Dr M Howard-Kishi

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