Sharing our data isn’t something we’ve taken lightly. Since April last year over 30,000 teachers from around the world have downloaded fit2teach to measure, view and track their work-life balance scores coming from their (often) 60+ hour-weeks and relentless workload. Protecting the integrity of your data underpins all we do – we’re here to help improve your wellbeing; not threaten it by exposing or sharing your individual scores and/or responses. But by collating your data, we’re able to provide new insights and (at least!) shed light on some of the burning questions often asked in our Facebook Staffroom:
We appreciate fit2teach is very different and we’ll never convince everyone of its potential. But we’ve worked our arses-off for the last eight months (for free!) in additional to playing full-time Daddy; and - in the case of the boys – moulding f2t around their day-jobs. We’re very proud of the number of teachers who credit us with helping them tip their work-life balance back in their favour. But we’ve so much more to come. Now we’re not making any profound claims sharing this. We built an App which loads of teachers took to. It uses our own measure of work-life balance; a measure now as second-nature for those teachers as anything else in their lives. Using this measure of fit2teach-scores, we collated and exported data from over 6500 UK-based teachers. Only fully-completed weeks were considered (teachers providing daily data - Mon-Sun) during the chosen period of time. Data was collating using a teacher’s school postcode provided on sign-up and edited in the ‘Settings’ tab of the fit2teach App.
These scores were added to different location pots and used to calculate the average fit2teach score per postcode area. With scores sitting on a sliding-scale of -100 to +100, our top 10% of teachers scored – on average – a fit2teach score of +18. Although in positive territory, this doesn’t represent a particularly healthy work-life balance – you can probably work that out. Generally speaking, we’re looking at someone who still works a couple of evenings a week; and either Saturday or Sunday. They’re paddling hard; but not (quite!) sinking. They have more control and freedom over those factors (such as planning) that present a threat to workload and their work-life balance. At the 50th percentile our teachers hover around a zero fit2teach score. What we commonly see here are teachers swimming in their pyjamas. Does this still happen? I’m thinking back to those life-saving swimming lessons when someone thought it wise to stick us in PJs and throw us in a pool; only for us to find it almost impossible to survive and not drown? It’s doable. You can keep your head above water and scramble to the side; clinging on with your PJ-bottoms twisted around your ankles like Grindylows in The Goblet of Fire. But it’s hard; and that’s where our 50th percentile teachers sit – hanging on in there. Just. And then there’s our most struggling teachers scoring in negative territory towards the lower-end of that sliding-scale. Typically these teachers have greater workload-demands placed on them; but that’s not to say their workload is greater. These are the teachers who landed jobs in the schools in which every lesson requires a written outcome, marked with a paragraph that few pupils can read, written in the non-negotiable school font and illustrated with kaleidoscopic highlights. And next-steps. A school where even short-term planning has a deadline and a file in a folder on a server – that was last opened a few hours after receiving their last Ofsted phone-call. A one-size-fits-all approach that prevents teachers from tackling their workload in a way that suits them; their families and their own unique lives. These are the teachers on the brink; those most likely to further add to a school’s – or the profession’s - poor retention-rates. Those that most need our support.
As stated earlier, we aren’t looking to make any bold claims; we’re simply sharing data we’ve been sat on for months. Without picking-out individual postcodes, it’s clear that fit2teach users in Scotland present the highest scores. If we were looking at a couple of yellow(ish) regions then it’d be less interesting; but - clearly - something is happening north-of-the-border to at least spark debate. Edinburgh (postcode EH) is the highest scoring region in the UK with Scotland being home to half of the top-ten highest scoring regions in Great Britain. We contacted various departments of Education Scotland to further explore the trend. As is usually the case, we struggled to find anyone directly linked with teacher wellbeing; and we’re still awaiting a response from our general enquiry. But why? They should be chuffed with this outcome. And why does no-one’s job include a mandate to look out for the wellbeing of the profession’s most valuable and important assets?
The same happened with Wales whose teachers presented on the opposite end of the scale. Now no-one’s suggesting that teachers in Wales are any less supported than their colleagues across the UK. These scores could be down to the teachers providing the data or their schools. But when you look at Wales (north Wales aside) as a whole, there’s a pattern of low-scoring teachers that can’t be ignored. I’ve spoken to teachers in Wales who weren’t surprised with our findings. And yet I’ve met some of the most compassionate and inspirational school-leaders in Wales on our travels around the UK. Again, we failed in our numerous attempts to reach-out to local authorities and Education Wales.
Looking around the UK, the picture isn’t a pretty one; but you didn’t really need us to tell or show you that. The south-west of England stands out from our teacher data; Northern Ireland probably looks worse floating alone than it might do; and our users along the north-east coast of England report more favourable scores than most.
Firstly, this isn’t a stick with which to beat schools, local authorities or government. They’re our insights that have been requested by those who provide them. You’ll find happy teachers working in supportive schools in all those red areas. Likewise those yellowest of regions shouldn’t be seen as a shoe-in to land the perfect job in the UK’s best schools. But it’s a start. So let’s open-up the debate and start talking about workload and work-life balance – really talking about it. Let’s stop measuring commitment or (even worse!) passion for the job by the number of hours spent at school or working at home. Stop holding teacher work-life balance to ransom by whole-school expectations not expected by those bodies that school-leaders fear the most.
‘It is time.’ (Rafiki, The Lion King); and it’s long overdue.
*fit2teach is a free App available to download for iOS and Android devices in their respective AppStores. Once downloaded, providing accurate school location data enables us to further collate regional data as we work to provide insights and evaluate the true impact of teacher work-load and work-life balance on education.
*For local, regional or national collaborations, please get in touch.