Unpicking Stress for Teachers in England


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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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Across England, are teachers more stressed in the state or private school sector?

The way in which the school year is structured may contribute to stress. The academic year entails long and intensive days during term-times interspersed by breaks approximately every 6–8 weeks.

It continues to frustrate me why our English teachers are not fully supported by government policy.

In a new paper published by Jude Brady and Elaine Wilson, Comparing sources of stress for state and private school teachers in England (2021), researchers compare the sources of stress experienced by 20 teachers in the state sector to those of 20 teachers in the private sector.

I’ve been fascinated by teacher workload for almost a decade; wondering why I and my colleagues were exhausted, searching for ideas and opportunities to reduce the burden of working 55-80 hours per week. No matter what new idea or government initiative came along to make life better, once the dust settled, the stress of the job came back.

With workload, high-stakes accountability policies and pupil behaviour in state schools (often cited as stressors) contribute to teachers’ decisions to leave posts in the state-funded sector. The result? They continue to work in other areas of the sector or move to teach in a private school.

However, with “stereotypes of well-behaved pupils and the ‘pushy parent’ abound, there is little research-based evidence which supports the notion that private school teachers experience more or less stress from parents or pupils.”

A brief look at the TALIS survey shows you that teacher autonomy in England is lower than in most other OECD countries. Considering stress, this figure reaches 30 per cent and is well above the average.

The research concluded that “private school participants emphasised parents as a source of stressful accountability, whereas the state school teachers typically emphasised burdensome workloads compounded by accountability-motivated school policies as their primary stressor.”

Marking books is cited as one of the key influences. However, “effective school policies” is cited as a way to remove unnecessary marking. Something I have championed in Mark Plan Teach and supported countless schools and college leadership teams. If you are fascinated by teacher workload – and solutions – I would encourage you to read the paper.

If you are wanting some tried and tested strategies, look no further.

…Burdensome workloads in part to school accountability cultures [are] prompted by a desire to prepare teachers for high-stakes Ofsted inspections.


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