Support teachers in the face of growing challenge by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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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.

Photo Credit: LTD Team via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: LTD Team via Compfight cc

The stats:

A survey of teachers’ levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing, carried out on behalf of NASUWT (November 2013), found that:

  1. •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;
  2. •two fifths of teachers (41%) say their job satisfaction has decreased in the last 12 months;
  3. •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;
  4. •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;
  5. •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:

Click to view
Click to view
The report is highly comprehensive and covers 18 questions. Download it here: Teachers’ Satisfaction and Wellbeing in the Workplace Survey.


When asked if teachers felt stressed about their job in teaching, they said:

Click to open
Click to open

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.


5 thoughts on “Support teachers in the face of growing challenge by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Thanks for this, Ross. Anything that raises awareness of the threats to and importance of teachers’ and school leaders’ (at all levels) well-being is to be welcomed. There are no easy answers, but being open about the issue, discussing it periodically and sharing experiences, insights and practical strategies in schools is a good start.

    It’s particularly important for heads and senior leaders to be mindful of their own health, well-being and workload and how they can protect themselves from unreasonable and debilitating stress and level of work, as well as ensuring they are monitoring and working actively to protect the well-being of their staff. Heads and senior leaders do need to consider how they can try to reduce stress within their schools, while still having high standards and holding people to account. The right balance of support and challenge helps.

    I think it’s crucial that we all have ways of refreshing and revitalising (and different people will use different strategies for this, but there has to BE a strategy). In particular, after each holiday, teachers and leaders need to go back to school feeling re-energised. I talked about this in my (video) presentation to #SLTeachMeet Oxford back in March

    and I also referred to it in the slot I did on the importance of reflection at #PedagooLondon around the same time.

    If there’s anything I can do to support anyone in this area I’m very willing to try. (@jillberry102)

    1. Some excellent discussions tonight at the mtg. Evidence of research pointing to investment I staff well being equates to high outcomes. Worth sharing and spreading this good news. Birkbeck University. Will dig it out. Also discussed accountability vs. support, but key was SLT taking leading role on flexibility and trailered support. Toxic schools were discussed, bullying etc etc. will write it up. It’s a massive topic and @SLTchat poll & GTN articles show that it is a v popular issue. 40% attrition too and Teach First drop out discussed. Resilience etc.
      Getting too passionate about blogging this already, so will stop myself now.

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