Why the 4-day week would revolutionise teaching

Nobody wants to spend their entire life working. No matter how much you love your job, no matter how happy you say you are to be on 60-, 70-, 80-hour weeks. No matter the profession, no career is worth that kind of sacrifice. We are all so much more than our jobs.

I think that’s why unions try so hard to reduce the workload on teachers. You can see from this study by OFSTED that teachers generally self-report low-to-moderate wellbeing at work, though it’s not just true in this brilliant profession. For some reason, we have seemingly all come to accept that 37.5 hours of work, every single week, is normal – and that it should be normal.

But should it? Weekends were only normalised in the UK after the Industrial Revolution – before then, it was common for people to work 6, if not 7, days a week. Who’s to say that this wouldn’t change again?

Personally, I think it could. But should it? Here’s how the 4-day work week would revolutionise teaching.

Why 4-day weeks?

If you’re not sure, a 4-day work week is exactly what it says on the tin: 4, rather than the usual 5, days of work in a full-time job. I think that these are great for two reasons:

  1. Less time at work. You’re no longer giving your life to your job if you’re spending less time there.
  2. More time at home. I don’t mean to just lounge about (though if you want to, that’s your prerogative), I mean that it’s an extra day every week to do what needs to be done. Whether that’s spending time with your family and friends or recovering from a busy week. We’d have more of that and less of a manic panic to get to town on a Friday night, spending Saturday adventuring, and then using Sunday to recover/mentally prepare for the week ahead.

So that’s how a 4-day week works. It’s been used in lots of countries and companies already, and studies show that it’s had a positive impact on employee wellbeing (which I am all about). Some companies have increased their employees’ working hours each day to make up for the time lost on a Friday; others have simply reduced their working hours without sacrificing their salaries.

How would this look in teaching?

Here’s exactly how a 4-day week would look in teaching

So, I’m already on site longer than my contracted hours – which is fine. I expected this going into teaching; I’ve already blogged about how you have peaks and troughs in your work life, as you do in any other profession. If you have a good, supportive school like I do – which you should prioritise when searching for a job – then you won’t feel overworked all of the time.

Because I’m going to be on site anyway, why not add on an extra period of lessons? Get the kids to do a little more learning, every day, to make up for the lost periods of learning that they would usually get on Friday (or Monday, or whenever the day is lost from the working week. My choice would be Friday because, you know, three-day weekends). That way, they get an extra lie-in once a week, and so do we. Throw an extra break time into their afternoons to break up any monotony that they could experience from an extended school day.

Now, I’m no fool: teachers would probably still find themselves working on that extra day off, but at least with a whole extra day away from the classroom, we’d be able to knuckle down and quickly get our planning sorted, without spending too much time stressing over getting them perfect on Sunday evenings before bed.

Is a 4-day week in teaching possible?

Theoretically, yes. You could do that. But it would result in so many changes that are far above my pay grade to comprehend. What, for instance, would two working parents do about childcare on that extra day off? If they can’t rely on friends or family to look after their young kids, what then? Go part-time, reduce their own wages, to look after their kids? Would they be allowed?

One solution could be to completely reorganise society. Which, you know, isn’t really that simple, is it? Get everyone onto 4 days a week. While you’re at it, you could then have most, if not all, shops and stores open every day of the week. If you’ve got so many more people off, you may as well keep shops open for longer so that they can spend their money and time, which would bring more money into the economy through taxes.

If you’re keeping everything open for longer, you’ll need to hire more people (because everyone only works 4 days now!) to cover for the store’s extra hours. Since the store is going to make more money, it won’t need to cut anyone’s wages; everyone will still be on the same salary as before.

Theoretically. This was just a musing I had with a few friends, so I’m sure there are holes to poke along the way. What do you think? Have I missed anything? Would you prefer a 4-day working week, or have I got it completely wrong?

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