Australian teachers work longer hours than doctors

For years the research has shown staggering statistics for the number of hours teachers work per week. What is surprising is how this compares to other professionals, such as doctors.

The Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013 surveyed 15 562 teachers and lists teachers’ work hours on all school-related activities. Australian primary teachers average 47.9 hours a week, while secondary teachers are working 47.6 hours.


The School Staff Workload Study (October 2016) commissioned by the Victorian Branch of Australian Education Union surveyed 13 000 educators and showed Victorian primary teachers averaged 52.8 hours per week and secondary teachers averaged 53.2 hours per week. Furthermore, full-time teachers were working 14 to 15 hours per week more than their required time which includes 5 to 6 hours over the weekend.

In New South Wales, the Understanding Work in Schools 2018 Report to the NSW Teachers Federation based on responses from 18 000 participants shows full-time employed classroom and special teachers work an average of 55 hours per week, made up of more than 43 hours in school and 11 hours per week at home.

Prior to this, the NSW Teachers Federation contracted the University of Sydney to conduct the Teaching and Learning: Review of Workload in 2017. Interviews with 31 teachers and school leaders showed the average reported work hours in this small sample was 56 hours per week.

Ok, so that may just sound like a whole lot of data (and goodness knows you get enough of that) so let’s put some perspective on this.

47.9, 52.8, 55, 56. These are AVERAGES. That means there are educators out there working less hours a week, it also means there are others who are working MORE. The NSW Review of Workload mentioned above, describes the majority of teachers and school leaders they interviewed as working between 56 and 68 hours. As a point of reference the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2003) defined very long working hours as 50 hours or more per week. Just for the record, 38 hours is still the maximum weekly hours set by the National Employment Standards.

In stark contrast the same review, using 2013 ABS data, reported that General Practitioners (GPs) in the medical field work an average of 42 hours per week. The average for medical specialists is 45 hours. Similarly, this 2015 Medical Practitioners Workforce Report shows the average for medical practitioners as 42.4 hours per week. I was staggered when I read this. I had always perceived doctors as working long, arduous days. It seeems, educators do way more.

For the naysayers who critically point out the school holidays and claim teachers have it easy, let’s apply the maths.

Firstly, take the average hours from the various reports above, and go with 50 hours a week as an easy round number to work with.

Next, assume educators do NO work on the school holidays. (I know it’s not the reality, but work with me here) That gives educators a 40 week school year, equalling 2000 working hours in the year.

Finally, dividing those 2000 hours over 48 weeks (based on 52 weeks in the year, less 4 weeks recreation leave, like other awards) will equate to working 41.5 hours a week. That is, still over the standards and hasn’t taken into account the mandatory student free days and working hours during the school holidays.

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