JIM Mc Gregor from Kirkintilloch (Letters, June 6) seems to be under the illusion that teachers have a lot of free time on their hands, and that all that is needed to help pupils catch up with lost class time is for teachers to do the job they are paid for.

He could expect a furious backlash here, but fortunately for him most teachers are probably far too busy to disabuse him of this notion. I am retiring this year from a long career of teaching in further eduction, so if I may, I will answer on their behalf.

In further education a full-time lecturer works a nominal 35 hours per week, of which 23-24 hours is spent in front of a class full of students. The remaining hours, referred to as non-contact time, is nowhere near enough in reality to a good job, so Mr Mc Gregor can rest assured that any good full-time teacher in any sector is in fact working 45-48 hours on an average week and usually more than that when times are busy.

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A teacher’s job comprises many and various tasks, duties and responsibilities, and if I were to itemise them fully this letter would be too long to print, so I will put them into broad categories: classroom delivery, curriculum planning and creation and updating of teaching material; classroom organisation and preparation of the workspace; assessment, assessment feedback and documentation; staff meetings, mandatory and continuous staff training on health and safety, data protection, vulnerable groups etc; continuous professional development and keeping up with innovations and changes in technology; pastoral care and student guidance; contact with parents and guardians; and lastly (the bugbear of every teacher I know) a seemingly bottomless pit of admin tasks, form-filling and paperwork.

That’s in a normal year, but of course the year that we have just lived through has made this already difficult (and rewarding) job even more taxing. The requirement to adapt almost overnight to remote learning (a very awkward mode of delivery, especially for practical subjects like the one I teach) has resulted in my teammates and I all working even more unpaid hours than usual. I have been in phased retirement on a fractional contract, and so far this academic year I have taken no holidays other than a few days at Christmas. Between August 2020 and March 2021, in order to fulfil a contract of 262 paid hours (including non-contact time), I in fact worked 558 hours (actually an underestimate as I didn’t bother to include the weekends I spent teaching myself how to make videos for my students); an average of 18.6 hours a week on a 0.25 contract. The full-time equivalent would be 74 hours per week, so I’m not sure how my full-time colleagues have managed to survive.

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I have no regrets about this. No-one appreciates more than teachers do the need ensure that no young person is left behind because of these unfortunate circumstances, and my teammates and I have strained every sinew to make sure their experience has been as close to normal as it possibly could be.

The biggest irony of Jim Mc Gregor’s contribution is that if teachers were doing what he suggests, “doing the job they are paid for”, the education system would start to break down and students would suffer greatly. That’s why they never take the oft-suggested industrial action of “working to contract”. They know that this would be far more damaging than token strike action.

Finally, may I make the following observation? It seems to me that few people would venture an opinion on the working life of a bank manager or train driver unless they had actually been a bank manager or train driver. But when it comes to education there seems to be a fair number of people who think that, in spite of having no experience of the job, they somehow know what it’s all about. Is it because they have all gone to school?

When looked at from a student’s point of view, there is no doubt that a skilled teacher, with apparently seamless delivery, can make the job look easy, but it’s like watching a duck swimming. You just don’t see the furious paddling underneath the water.

Maggie Milne