Today, on Tuesday 17th June 2014, I visited Education Guardian to attend a roundtable discussion. The topic: “Promoting wellbeing: How can we support teachers in the face of growing professional challenges?”
The discussion set, was to explore what factors affecting teacher wellbeing and what school and education leaders can do to ease the pressure. Having been in the classroom for almost 20 years, I can safely state that teachers are working longer hours and facing more pressures than ever before! I work longer hours. I see my colleagues work longer hours.
I rarely see staff go home before 6pm … and even if they do, I’m sure some go home to work. Now, I know most, if not all standard day jobs work from 9am-5pm ‘ut northmanni‘ and as teachers, we are often in school ready to teach, a good hour or two before the day officially kicks off. (n.b 8am – 3.30pm as the standard teacher day.)
Over the years, I have had to adapt my own strategy for working effectively as my experience and job roles have evolved; switching off my work-memory and taking time out to relax and just be a friend; a son, a father, a husband. I have blogged many times about staff wellbeing issues on #GuiltyTeacher syndrome; feeling #ThePinch; looking after yourself by #EndOfFlight forecasting; when childcare backfires and of course, the #SillySeason which we are currently experiencing.
In an open letter to Gove, the widow of Gareth Utting – an English teacher who died of a heart attack aged just 37 – said: “There were a few contributory factors to his death, but looming large was the word ‘stress’.”
Research by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that 55% of teachers said work pressure is having a detrimental effect on their mental wellbeing. Note, the research was conducted in April 2014 by polling agency ComRes, surveying 2002 adults, of whom 1548 are parents and 933 have children under 25.
N.b. Written as ‘Adults’ and not ‘teachers’. To access the report, contact here.
A survey of teachers’ levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing, carried out on behalf of NASUWT (November 2013), found that:
- •over half of teachers (52%) say that they have seriously considered leaving their current job in the last 12 months and nearly half (47%) have seriously considered leaving the profession;
- •two fifths of teachers (41%) say their job satisfaction has decreased in the last 12 months;
- •teachers’ biggest concern regarding their job is workload (79%), followed by pay and pensions (66%), changes or reforms in the curriculum (59%) and school inspections (51%). The vast majority of teachers (86%) say that their workload has increased in the last 12 months;
- •the majority of teachers disagree that teaching is competitive with other occupations in terms of either the financial rewards on offer (80%) or salaries (67%) and only 21% of teachers feel optimistic about their career opportunities;
- •the top three things teachers love most about their jobs are seeing children learn and progress (91%), interacting with pupils (90%) and making a positive difference (83%). (Source)
When asked if teachers would recommend a career in teaching to a friend, they said:
When asked if teachers felt stressed about their job in teaching, they said:
Poor wellbeing poses huge problems for education and school leaders. If this reputation continues, the sector will struggle to attract and retain the increasing numbers of teachers it needs if it is to meet the demands of a growing population. Recruitment is already very challenging for many schools and school leaders.
If staff are unhappy, could standards of education could slip? Indeed, in a recent survey from the Teacher Support Network, nearly a third of parents said that excessive workloads had affected the quality of teaching in their children’s schools. So how can the profession respond to this problem? Can senior leaders play their part? What can the government do to alleviate this serious epidemic faced in schools? Is this a common viewpoint shared with staff in your school?
What needs to change? How can schools protect and support all staff?
The key areas presented were:
- How can school leaders support staff?
- Ofsted: managing the pressures of accountability
- How poor wellbeing affects a school’s reputation
- How rehabilitation services could help get staff back to work
- Paperwork vs teaching hours: how can we control the bureaucracy?
- What else should policymakers be doing to ease the pressure?
- Challenging the focus on student progress
The session gathered unions, charities, school leaders, teachers and parents to debate ‘how to tackle teacher wellbeing’. I will report back as soon as the outcome from the meeting is published.