How can we reduce stress in the classroom and support our teachers?
18 July 2012
The wellbeing of teachers in the workplace is a serious issue, as our recent study indicates, and it is coming under increasing scrutiny. To help us tackle this issue, we at the Teacher Support Network (TSN) have teamed up with The Work Foundation to conduct a national review on the wellbeing of the education workforce. Teachers from across England are currently advising us on the design of the review, which will explore how wellbeing can be enhanced to improve pupil outcomes.
As the two charities assess wellbeing levels and the impact on pupils and young people, we have been asking those most affected to reveal the degree of work related stress under which they operate. We have had some interesting responses. One teacher commented, "The stress of achieving good results, bullying by the senior management team (SMT), constantly jumping through someone else’s hoops, day-to-day niggles in their own private lives, school politics, parental expectations" and "poorly behaved children" are but a few of the stressful hurdles they have had to overcome.
Another contributor said, "Things are going downhill, more stress, more bullying by SMT, overcrowded classrooms, no support for teachers, continuously changing the year plan to fit with SMT…I just want to be left alone."
A third respondent explained, "If teachers have the opportunity to be really heard, even if practical changes can't be made straight away, then at least that teacher can go back to class feeling valued. Teachers are the most expensive and most valuable resource in any school."
These sentiments were echoed in a recently published report by the Department of Work and Pensions, Health at Work - an independent review of sickness absence, which suggested that the teaching profession has become one of the most stressful occupations in the country. With the list of challenges not getting any shorter, the need to uncover the impact of teacher stress on both staff and pupils alike is pressing.
Yet, the issue of work related stress amongst teachers is not a new phenomenon. In 2004, the Schools Advisory Service reported that teachers in the UK took a combined total of more than 200,000 days off work as a direct result of the stresses and strains associated with the profession. If experienced professionals are absent or not always able to give their very best, it is likely that students could end up experiencing adverse consequences of an issue that has spiralled in recent years. Clearly, there is a need to establish how our leaders of tomorrow are being affected by the adverse conditions facing the teachers of today.
As we have discussed through our online forum on the subject, "When teachers know they are supported, they thrive in the classroom…parents respond well when their children are being taught by someone who believes in what they are doing." This remains pivotal to those at TSN, where improving the status and recognition of teachers is seen as fundamental to the success of the education system. Along with The Work Foundation, we hope our research will uncover the relationship between teacher stress and student attainment, with a view to enhancing the support mechanisms and care for teachers across the country and so benefit pupils as a result.
To find out more about the review and get involved, visit www.teachersupport.info/research-policy