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How teachers spend their time off

Teachers learn an enormous amount in the first few years of their career – everything from how to deliver the curriculum and commanding a classroom, to multi-tasking and organisational skills. But one thing that a teacher often has to discover for themselves is how best to utilise their time off.

Should I spend my Friday night marking those exam papers? Should I be thinking about school during the half-term break? How long should I switch off for over summer? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and every teacher has their own routine that works for them.

We reached out to our Scholars as well as our partner regional training centres to gain some insight into how teachers spend their time off at the weekend, during half-term and term breaks, and over the summer holidays.

At the weekend

Weekends are an essential time for teachers to relax and recharge ahead of a new week of teaching. But with a full schedule during the week, it’s common for teachers to pick up a few work-related tasks over the weekend. It’s a fine balance, as our Scholars have been discovering during their ITT and ECT years.

“Friday evenings, I probably leave school around 4pm and from then that whole evening is ‘no school’ at all,” explained Yasmin, a Year 5 Scholar who began her second year of teaching in September. “I do around two to three hours of work on a Saturday and Sunday. I’m the sort of person where [work] is always in the back of my mind – but I find doing all my little errands fun at the weekend because they help take my mind off school.”

Kieran, a Year 6 Scholar, also keeps his Friday evenings clear. “I give myself an allotted amount of time on a Saturday, normally in the morning, to get a little bit of work done. This is my time to get it done, and if it’s not done by then it gets put to bed – it’s relax time.”

During half-terms

“As a working parent, half-term is a great opportunity to catch up on the more mundane aspects of life,” commented Rebecca Turvill, Director of Primary Maths at St Philip Howard Catholic School, who waits for the half-term to organise essentials such as dentist and optician appointments.

Rebecca also uses one half-term each year for her main family holiday. “Half term is a really important time for us all to recharge a bit,” explained Rebecca. “We make the most of having more flexibility with time to recover.” Another consideration is that the price of hotels and flights are much higher during the summer break, so taking a holiday during a half term can also help save money.

Over the summer break

“The main thing that I’ve learned over the past three years is: give yourself a break,” said Tom, a Scholar who graduated from the FTS programme in summer this year. Tom went on to explain that whilst there is a temptation to plan for the whole first term over summer, plans are likely to change once you receive your classes and your timetable – and having six weeks off school feels much shorter than it actually is.

For Scholars entering their ITT year in 2023, it can be difficult to know how best to utilise the gap between finishing university and beginning your first teaching role.

“I didn’t have any lessons planned before my first day at school and it was fine, because there were inset days and we had staggered starts for year groups,” Holly commented, reflecting back on her ITT year. “Something that I could have done last summer was to look at GCSE papers to know where the curriculum builds up to. So if you’re looking for something to do that’s not planning lessons, I’d recommend that.”

For a teacher, work-life balance is absolutely essential and we encourage our Scholars to ensure this balance is maintained as best as possible. Here are some resources that can help you to manage your workload and look after that important work-life balance:

School workload reduction toolkit (the Department for Education)

Maintaining a work-life balance (The Early Career Hub from MyCollege)

Each term, we invite our Scholars to share their teaching experiences with other Scholars at our virtual Scholar to Scholar events. We are looking forward to our next Scholar to Scholar event, which will be held in November.