In recent years a series of surveys have found the increased workload inside and outside the classroom has led to longer working hours for teachers in England. They have also faced more demanding employers, whether head teachers, academy bosses or school inspectors.
When the Guardian surveyed more than 4,000 teachers nearly two year ago, many blamed increased bureaucracy designed to measure pupil progress and their own performance as behind the rise in working hours. One told the Guardian: “I work 60 hours a week on average and still don’t feel like I’m doing a good enough job. If I want a life outside work I just get too exhausted.”
At one primary school in Bristol, the remaining teachers – those not on sick leave due to stress – all quit at the end of the school year in July 2017.
Is it worse for teachers than other professions or industries?
Many modern careers are stressful. Teaching is unusual in being relatively safe in its working environment and job security but still high in stress. A YouGov survey commissioned by an education charity last year found 75% of teachers in the UK reporting symptoms of stress – including depression, anxiety and panic attack – compared with just 62% of the working population as a whole.
Suicide risks for primary and nursery school teachers in England was 42% higher than in the general population between 2011 to 2015, according to the Office of National Statistics. Some 102 suicides were recorded as primary and nursery schoolteachers in the period.
What do teachers want?
Many teachers blame efforts to please the Ofsted school inspectorate as a significant cause of the increased stress. In recent years unions have identified some time-wasting practices, such as “triple marking” of school books to measure pupil attainment.
But many also say the pressure to perform under the threat of poor Ofsted ratings is another cause of high stress, as well as the government’s league tables that rank schools by exam results and can be used to punish school leaders if they fall below certain levels.
The rapid pace of policy changes introduced by the Department for Education in recent years has also been blamed, especially the overhaul of A-level and GCSE exams that has seen new courses and curriculum introduced, as has key stage one and key stage two tests in primary school.
What is the government doing?
The Department for Education argues it is supporting schools to reduce unnecessary workload, and has pledged to give schools and teachers longer notice of policy changes. Meanwhile, Ofsted has made strenuous efforts to puncture myths that it requires specific types of marking or teaching within classes, and no longer grades individual teachers during inspections.
For further information please visit https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/11/teachers-england-suffering-from-so-much-stress-explainer