Teachers' well-being low, finds Ofsted

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Teachers feel over-worked and undervalued by school leaders and parents, who are a great source of anxiety, finds new research on teacher well-being.

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Teachers surveyed by Ofsted reported spending more time marking and planning than actually teaching

Findings from Ofsted’s report show that the overall well-being of most teachers is low. Any positives about the job are outweighed by high workloads, poor work-life balance, a perceived lack of resources and too little support from leaders – especially for managing bad behaviour. This can lead to higher levels of sickness absence and teachers leaving the profession altogether.

Another source of stress for teachers is Ofsted inspections, largely because they increase administrative workload. However, Ofsted says this appears to be driven by senior leadership, or because there is excessive focus on data and exam results.

The research, which is based on survey responses from 2,293 staff from 290 schools and 2,053 staff from 67 FES (further education and skills) providers, also finds that teachers spend more time planning lessons, marking and carrying out administrative tasks than teaching.

Many said they do not have enough time to do the ‘important aspects’ of their job, forcing them to work in their free time-evenings, weekends or while on annual leave. Full-time school teachers reported working 51 hours on average a week.

Relationships with parents

Relationships with parents were also mentioned by teachers as a source of stress for a variety of reasons, including parents’ unrealistic expectations for their child, the frequency of e-mails expecting an instant reply, and parents raising concerns or complaints inappropriately.

The research finds that open access to staff e-mail address puts pressure on teachers to provide an immediate response. Some teachers talked about a ‘culture of competition’ in which parents share schools’ response rates among themselves. As a result, the instant response e-mail culture adds to teachers’ workload and interferes with their work-life balance.

Teachers spoke of an ‘imbalance of power’ lying in parents’ favour, as social media gives them the power to publicly express negative comments about a school or teacher.

Recommendations 

The report recommends a number of actions senior leaders can take to improve relationships with parents and benefit staff well-being in the next school year, such as informing parents about the most appropriate ways of raising concerns, and providing support to staff when a complaint has been raised. Schools could also consider alternative ways of communicating with parents in order to alleviate workload.

For the Department for Education, it recommends it continue to spread the message that teaching is a highly valued and important occupation and to continue to reduce administration in schools.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said,‘Parents rightly have high expectations for their child. The vast majority of schools are doing a good job, and parents should be supportive and trust them to get on with it. This is particularly important when it comes to behaviour and school discipline. Schools need to have a strong behaviour policy, which will include some sanctions, to allow all children to learn. Parents should support it.

‘Schools also have to play their part to improve their staff’s well-being and manage the expectation of parents. It’s high time leaders took steps to end this "instant response culture", that is putting huge pressure on teachers, and allow them to focus on the important work of teaching.

‘Teaching is one of the most important jobs there is, so we need to make sure it is highly valued by society and a rewarding career to choose.’

  •  The report is available here
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