‘If the government does not act, teachers will walk because of poor pay and overwork’ [Oct 2016]

Once inflation is taken into account, teachers have, on average, faced a real-terms pay cut of £2,273 since 2010 – this cannot go on, writes one union leader.  Teachers need a pay rise. In 2011/12 the government imposed a two-year pay freeze on public sector workers which was followed by a one per cent pay cap until 2015/16 – a cap which has now been extended for another four years. Between 2010 and 2016, accounting for inflation, teachers have, on average, faced a real-terms pay cut of £2,273.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has commented that: “The government’s announced 1 per cent limit on annual pay increase for a further four years from 2016-17 is expected to reduce wages in the public sector to their lowest level relative to private sector wages since at least the 1990s”. This, argues the IFS, “could result in difficulties for public sector employers trying to recruit, retain and motivate high-quality workers”. Read More


Teaching is among the ‘top three most stressed occupations’ [June 2015]

Teaching is consistently among the top three most stressful professions, according to a respected academic who has studied well-being in 80 occupations.

Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester’s business school and a former government adviser on well-being, told TES that the profession regularly ranked among the most stressful jobs.

“Of all the occupations I’ve studied, and that’s about 80, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations,” he said. “The hours are long and antisocial, the workload is heavy and there is change for change’s sake from various governments.”

His comments came as the country’s biggest provider of new teachers, Teach First, revealed that it had started offering trainees psychological support because of concerns that classroom pressures could trigger mental health problems.   Read More


‘I hear of teachers crying on their kitchen floor because of the stress’ [Oct 2015]

Teachers expect to work hard but should not be expected to devote every minute of their lives to their job, writes one union leader

I was speaking recently at a joint ATL/NUT meeting on childhood and adolescent mental ill health when I was silenced by a young man who told me that while he was very concerned about adolescent stress, he was even more worried about his partner, a primary school teacher.  Increasingly, when he came home from work, he found her crying on the kitchen floor.

Even more recently I heard of one young teacher who had, as a performance objective, the instruction that she must not cry in the staffroom. She did not know what to be more mortified about – that she had cried in the staffroom, or that her line manager could propose such an objective without any thought about what might cause her to cry in the first place.

Tales like these are told to me just too often. It seems that teacher stress is increasingly being regarded as par for the course and part of the job. A newly qualified teacher, asking for help to deal with an impossible workload which took up every evening until 11pm and all of the weekend, was told by her line manager –”that’s the way it is in teaching”. Read More


‘Teacher stress and exam pressure: why I blame Michael Gove for the mental heath crisis in schools’ [Jan 2016]

But things are looking up with the appointment of his successor Nicky Morgan, writes the Department for Education’s mental health champion

Unless you’ve been living in isolation on the Moon like the man in the John Lewis ad, you will have heard the statistic that “one in four people will experience a mental illness this year”. It’s quoted endlessly, most usually in an effort to “reduce stigma”.

If you’re anything like the 16-year-old me, unless you’ve already experienced mental illness or you know someone who has, hearing that fact will have the opposite effect to the one it intends. You’ll reason that, statistically, you’re still far more likely to be in the three-quarters of people who won’t become mentally ill this year. You’ll conjure up images of the “one in four”, who walk among us looking like “normal” people, but with a hidden secret. Read More


12 signs of stress

A little can give you extra verve during important occasions like interviews, but too much stress can have devastating effects on your life.

Like any problem, it makes sense to deal with it as early as possible to get the best results. Jessica, secondary school teacher suffered from recurrent minor illnesses. “. I eventually went to the doctor and he suggested that it could be stress and started asking about my lifestyle. I just burst into tears because things were just too much,” she says. “A couple of years ago, I could have dealt easily with problems like that but suddenly they felt impossible to solve. I felt overwhelmed for large parts of the day and noticed I was snapping more, at my class and at home with my family.”

After a long phone call to a trained coach at Teacher Support helpline, Jessica realised that her workload was excessive and frequent changes meant that she could never settle for long. “There was no support at my school, either,” she says. She realised that she had the power to change her situation, set to work on the changes, and at the same time made sure that she had a better work life balance.  Read More