Research reveals the pressures affecting modern teachers

Research reveals the pressures affecting modern teachers

Friday, 28 April, 2017

Research conducted by the Psychology Department at Bath Spa University has revealed the pressures affecting modern teachers including written and verbal abuse from their pupils’ parents.

The findings, from a UNISON and ATL supported project, into stress in the workplace in the education sector, show that over a quarter of primary teachers and a fifth of secondary teachers are exposed to negative behaviours at least once a month. Reported abuse ranged from online messages to confrontation on school premises.

The figures directly correlate with statistics that show that the education sector has the highest incidence of long-term sickness absences within the public sector, due to stress.

The research was conducted by Bath Spa University senior lecturer in Psychology Dr Jermaine Ravalier, and Dr Joe Walsh.

Dr Ravalier commented: “Many of the teachers we spoke to love what they do, however these findings paint a picture of a group of professionals that are under pressure from many quarters. As well as government cuts to funding, administrative demands, and increased class sizes, we also found that teachers work on average 20 hours per week more than they’re contracted to – this all adds up to long absences from work and unfortunately lead to many passionate teachers leaving the sector.

“It is a real shame that parents are adding to these issues by letting emotions get the better of them and treating teachers in an inappropriate manner. Ongoing training for teachers, to help manage confrontation, is needed as is investment in understanding the trigger points that cause the abuse so that school management teams can address this growing problem.”

Despite these figures, many people continue to choose teaching as a career. High profile individuals such as Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway are choosing to switch careers into teaching later in life, giving a boost to the sector’s profile and raising the status of teaching as a career.

Additionally, the government is increasingly recognising the need to support teachers and have launched the ‘Teacher Workload Plan’ which aims to reduce unnecessary burdens on teachers.

“Teaching as a career offers huge rewards at all levels,” said Professor Kate Reynolds, Executive Dean of the Institute for Education at Bath Spa University. “It allows people to remain close to a subject they feel passionate about and have a varied career where no two days are the same, working with brilliant colleagues who share their values and making a difference to children and young people.

“As a career path it is challenging and teachers can help themselves by accessing further support and development through professional learning. We actively encourage this at Bath Spa through Network for Learning which offers the chance for teachers to come together to learn new skills and knowledge.  In our teacher training programmes, we are also support teachers to be resilient in how they deal with conflict and negative situations which sometimes arise in schools.

“There are many ways that teachers can be much better supported in their roles to ensure that on a day-to-day basis going to school is pleasant and rewarding. The government’s new workload plan to cut back on the administrative elements of teaching, which have been steadily on the rise over the past couple of decades, is a welcome step in the right direction.”

The Bath Spa University Institute of Education is one of the oldest specialist teacher training institutions in the UK, and is celebrating its 70thanniversary this year.