Teachers face home invasion on a grand scale as a result of abuse of email

Teachers are being swamped with work-related emails on weekends, in holidays and even when they are on sick leave, adding to their already excessive workload and causing rising levels of stress, a survey by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, has found.

Over two thirds (69%) of teachers reported receiving work-related emails from senior staff outside school hours, with nearly 85% receiving emails during weekends, over three quarters (76%) during holidays and nearly half (43%) during periods of sickness absence.

The survey of over 7,500 teachers also found that:
•           nearly half (45%) of teachers say they are expected to respond to work-related emails outside of school hours, with four in ten saying that there is an expectation that they will reply within a specific timescale;
•           over half (58%) of teachers say email intrusion is having a detrimental impact on their work/life balance and workload;
•           a quarter of teachers say they are encouraged to communicate with parents via email in their own time and 16% with pupils.

The figures are released as teachers at the NASUWT’s Annual Conference in Birmingham prepare to debate a motion today (Monday) warning that an epidemic of work-related stress is profoundly affecting teacher morale and risks triggering a recruitment and retention crisis.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“It is widely acknowledged that teaching is one of the most stressful occupations.

“The abuse of email is now adding to that stress.

“To receive an email at 2.15am, accompanied by a text and an expectation it will be responded to by 8.00am, is unacceptable harassment and pressure.

“Teachers even report receiving emails from school management at midnight on New Year’s Eve with a message reminding them of the work they must have completed by the time the new term starts.

“Even being ill is no protection against a deluge of management emails, in fact in some cases it seems to trigger them.

“This is home invasion on a grand and unacceptable scale with teachers’ privacy, home life and health being seriously adversely affected.

“School managements who indulge in this behaviour have clearly lost their grip on the reality of what is appropriate and reasonable.

“In principle, when an email is sent should not be the problem. However, it’s the expectation and pressure for response that accompanies it that is the key issue of concern and blighting the lives of teachers.

“All schools should be required to have a policy and protocol on the appropriate use of email.”

NASUWT Press Office contacts:

Ben Padley 07785 463 119
Lena Davies 07867 392 746
Amanda Williamson 07741 246 202

Notes to editors

The NASUWT’s Annual Conference 2014 is being held at the ICC in Birmingham from 18 to 21 April.

Over 7,500 teachers responded to an NASUWT survey on the use of technology during February and March 2014. A copy of the survey is attached.

Teachers who responded to the survey were invited to share their experiences of email intrusion. A selection of their comments is below:

“Senior teacher and member of management team regularly emails at weekends expecting copies of planning to be emailed back before start of new week. This is expected of the NQT who works alongside me. When she has replied as requested but asked for feedback on said plans the response is that management will get back to her in school time.”

“I was off sick and received several emails. These emails were work related and I was expected to write pupil reports whilst off sick.”

“Bullying emails sent after 11pm asking for work the next day.

“Emails sent at 1:10pm whilst you are teaching and you are expected to have dealt with them by 3:30pm despite the fact that I'm teaching – so there's no possible chance of answering it.”

“All parents and pupils are given teacher email addresses on a card at start of the year. Parents are encouraged to contact staff with any issues and staff are expected to respond to each, either by return email or phone call as swiftly as possible. Parents have emailed and then sent a second during the same day chasing a reply, sometimes complaining about not having a response yet.”

The full text of the motion is below:

John Girdley to move,
Helen Ryan to second:
Conference asserts that work-related stress amongst teachers in the UK has reached epidemic proportions.
Conference notes the evidence from the 2013 Big Question survey that 78% of teachers have experienced increased workplace stress within a 12-month period, with 77% stating that their job had impacted negatively on their wellbeing.
Conference recognises that work-related stress amongst teachers is being driven by a combination of excessive workload, punitive inspection and accountability systems and the relentless attacks on and denigration of the teaching profession.
Conference notes with concern that the stress epidemic is having a profoundly detrimental impact on the morale of teachers, leading to increased levels of sickness absence and a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
Conference endorses the continuing work by the national executive to help secure better health and wellbeing for NASUWT members by:
(i) taking industrial action to improve teachers’ working conditions;
(ii) developing individual and collective support mechanisms, including the NASUWT online diagnostic wellbeing tool;
(iii) publishing evidence on the incidence and negative effects of excessive work-related stress;
(iv) investigating preventative strategies to help empower teachers and contribute to reduced stress levels amongst teachers;
(v) working with external partner organisations to provide support for members and
(vi) developing a model wellbeing policy.
(Executive, Merton, Corby and Wellingborough)
Rahul Mahajan to move,
Thomas Higgins to second:
in the fifth paragraph:
add ‘(vii) campaigning for all schools (including academies) to take full responsibility for ensuring that staff receive regular health checks.’

Ben Padley,
Press and Media Officer,
Campaigns and Communications,
Hillscourt Education Centre
B45 8RS

Direct Line: 0121 457 6269
Mobile: 07785 463 119