Secondary teachers teach 22 hour week. In addition, they prepare lessons, gather resources, set and mark exams, and deal with the various issues that arise on a daily basis with students, parents and colleagues. This is only part of the picture. There are hours of time given to schools by teachers which are not measured and not taken into account in any discussions about working hours. Schools in Ireland have a considerable range of curricular and extra-curricular activities made possible by the hours that teachers and staff volunteer outside of the normal teaching day. The benefit to the students of these activities is enormous.
In most schools, this extra work is not being captured or measured. It can therefore get lost and forgotten in the debates and discussions about the job of teaching and all it entails. To address this, my colleague, Catherine Duffy, and I embarked on a pilot project to measure the time spent on these extracurricular activities in our school over one year, the academic year 2010/11. To ensure that the data was gathered in a uniform way, we developed a template for staff to complete which captured: details of the activity; number of students and teachers involved; number of hours. Not surprisingly, the final document collating the information is lengthy and detailed. We present here a shorter edited version. The full document can be viewed on the Malahide Community School website.
Some points to note: Staff were reporting after the event so in some cases the time had to be estimated. Where this applied, an under- estimation the amount of time was recorded. In the case of school trips, we allowed 12 hours per day although in reality teachers are on duty 24 hours during trips.
All of the teachers concerned in these activities gave of their time willingly and with a good heart. The intention and motivation was to enhance the school life of our students. We would encourage other schools to do a similar measure of the time volunteered by teachers and staff to their school. It is illuminating to see the variety and scale of the different activities.
In the U.K. in the 1980s there was a very bitter dispute between the teaching unions and the government. Teachers were vilified by the Education Secretary. The unions imposed a work to rule. All extra-curricular activities stopped. The conflict was protracted and messy. When the dispute ended, many teachers did not return to their former activities. School sport was particularly badly hit. John Major is on record as saying that English cricket went into decline after this action. At a time when there is an explosion in childhood obesity, the authorities in the U.K. are desperately trying to encourage more physical activity among young people, particularly in school.
”... schools are now encouraged to offer more physical education where possible. This will include the usual syllabus but can also include after school activities-where possible-such as swimming, cross-country running.....”
“How Schools Tackle Childhood Obesity” www.gettherightschool.co.uk
They had after - school sport in large amounts for free up to the 1980s.
In Ireland there is still a considerable amount of sport provided in schools. Teams are run on a voluntary basis by teachers with a passion for their sport. If we discourage this by short-sighted measures to “increase productivity”, or fail to acknowledge the time and effort required to run these activities there is a very real danger that they will disappear over time.
Sport is just one activity that can provide measurable beneficial effects. There are other important benefits that students gain from acting, music, cultural and academic activities, including building confidence and self esteem, personal development and growth.
Our results show number of hours spent. Unfortunately, they cannot show the energy, enthusiasm, passion, dedication and commitment that also went into each and every activity. This is the truly immeasurable and invaluable input that must be maintained and nurtured.
Pat Duff and Catherine Duffy
Malahide Community School. Feb. 2012
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