Primary Education News

23 Apr '13

News Who works the most hours - MPs or teachers?

The working hours of both teachers and MPs have both come under attack this week, but who really works the most hours?
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The working hours of both teachers and MPs have been under attack this week. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee, has said that MPs need to spend more time in Westminster. Elsewhere, Michael Gove has called for longer school days and a cut in the length of holidays.

Each claim drew anger from representatives of their respective profession but what do the numbers tell us? Who works harder: MPs or teachers?

MPs sit in Westminster for around 148 days a year, the equivalent of around 30 five-day weeks for the past two years. The other 22 were divided between holiday, party conferences and constituency work. Meanwhile, teachers and headteachers get 13 weeks of holiday during school breaks.

If teachers and MPs were both doing no work during their allocated time off, the average secondary school teacher would be working 74 hours less a year than parliamentarians.

However, it is a different story when it comes to the number of hours each profession says they actually work – and what they get paid.

The last comprehensive survey that asked MPs how many hours they worked was done by Hansard in 2011. It found that most of the new intake of 2010 MPs estimated they worked 69 hours a week. The Teacher's Workload Diary survey, which was last carried out by the Department of Education in 2010, showed that the average secondary school teacher worked about fifty hours a week during term time. It's hard to know how many hours anyone works really but MPs certainly claimed they were putting in the hours.

Secondary school teachers are expected to be working 39-hour weeks on average, which compares to about 40 hours a week for MPs - if a rough working week is drawn from the amount of time Westminster is sitting. Last year, the House of Commons sat on average for about 7 hours and 57 minutes a day.

By any measure it seems that MPs are working more hours each year than teachers but they are also paid much better for doing so.

A secondary school teacher in 2010 earned £37,000 on average compared to an MPs basic salary of £65,378, which has been frozen since that year. This means that if MPs were only paid for the official hours that Westminster is running they would be being paid £57.66 an hour. A secondary school teacher would be paid £23.65 for every official hour during term time and a primary school teacher would get £19.38 an hour.

It was not clear in the Hansard research how much MPs were working during the recess but a similar survey in 1983 by SSRB found that MPs were doing a 42 hour week compared to the 69 hours they were doing while Westminster was sitting. It is also unclear how much teachers are working during their 13-week break.

It is also worth noting that many do not consider the amount of time the House of Commons is sitting to be an accurate reflection of time at Westminster, with some MPs having other duties such as select committees and some not attending parliament at all.

As Norman Baker, the Lib Dem transport minister, said in response to Hodge's claims: "Some MPs work bloody hard all year round and others don't."

We worked out the working week of teachers and headteachers by subtracting the average they said they were working before school, evenings and weekends from their total estimated working hours.

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