Could you have a picked a more stressful job?

teaching stressful profession

Teachers have always had to endure the stereotypical quotes that teaching is “easy” and that they are ‘always on holiday’. Yet a recent study carried out by Sir Cary Cooper, a Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Manchester proves otherwise.

The respected academic carried out a study of well-being amongst 80 occupations, and found teaching to be constantly among the top three most stressful jobs. Sir Cary who is the former Government Advisor on well-being, stated that “of all the occupations I’ve studied, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations”.

This should come as no surprise to the government with unions and teachers constantly stating the issues with workload and workplace stress. Teachers often work long, antisocial hours due to the heavy workload placed on them, therefore it is unsurprising that teachers suffer from high levels of stress. Sir Cary’s study found that teacher stress levels are on par with other deservedly respected professions such as health care and uniformed services (police, ambulance and fire service).

Recently trainee teachers have been offered psychological support due to growing concerns that classroom pressure could lead to mental health issues as well as early exits from teaching. Anxiety, stress and depression were the leading causes of sickness absence across many of the occupations over the past year and the same issues were found to be ‘endemic’ across the teaching profession. Sir Cary believes that the constant changes in education policy is one of the causes adding to teachers stress levels and he thinks that the government should look to take a more ‘hands free’ approach to education.

Constant 60 or 70 hour weeks, crushing workloads and relentless judgement from Ofsted has meant less and less graduates are willing to join the profession. Surely with a teaching recruitment crisis looming this is food for thought for the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan?

Is psychological support enough to help our future and current teachers? Does more need to be done? What do you think the solution is?


Have your say here…

16 thoughts on “Could you have a picked a more stressful job?

  1. I became a teacher after 20+ years in other occupations, so I am in a good position to compare stress/workload with those occupations.

    I left teaching after 10 years. I was a teacher during a period when because schools could get good ratings based on their paperwork, paperwork became too important. A viscious circle developed of those leading teaching being the ones who could produce the best paperwork and were ambitious, not necessarily the most skilled or knowledgeable about teaching. To reduce teacher stress, there needs to be a return to learning being led by those who understand teaching and, instead of putting their own ambitions first, are willing to take risks and challenge those monitoring them – so that teacher time can be focussed on children’s learning not paperwork.

  2. I was very eager to join the teaching profession for as long as I can remember.After some serious consideration I decided to speak to some teachers who had been in the profession for a number of years,to get their honest view.Without letting them know that teaching is what I am considering.I was shock to hear the response I received.They were offering no encouragement to anyone who wants to join the teaching profession.I am now considering teaching assistant with the early years or to choose another career path altogether.

  3. I think the government should give serious thought to education for our young generation and the people that choose the teaching profession.Our future depends on teachers to impart the skills and knowledge we need to equip us to live in an ever changing and demanding society.Therefore,if our teachers are constantly finding it stressful which leads to psychological and mental problems,then we are heading for a significant decline in people choosing the teaching profession.This will definitely have a domino effect on our society in every aspect of our lives. Are we capable to deal with a problem of this nature?Measures should be taken by the government to give serious attention to the work load of teaching professionals because their wellbeing is just as important as the students they teach.

  4. Teaching isn’t what it used to be we all know that. How are children supposed to learn with enthusiasm when teachers have list theirs. You can’t have one without the other. Why won’t anyone tell these dumbass politicians that this simple philosophy is what makes children learn and not endless hours of box ticking and paperwork. I got out and I am glad I did!

  5. I agree with the above comment about paperwork. Also the teachers that come out well according to Ofsted are those who can sell themselves well in the observation. The constant judgement and lack of trust also add to stress. I’m fed up with being judged by people who don’t know the children I work with or who agree with all the difficulties but still expect you to wave a magic wand!

  6. I am also sick of attainment being linked to performance. If you work in a leafy suburb where both parents work and can provide private tutors vs an inner city school underneath a council tower – how can you compare the two sets of results? For some inner city schools – pupils simply coming to school is a target in itself, and the added pressure to perform makes them reluctant to even try leading to a vicious cycle. Teaching should be skills based outcomes, and therefor allow teachers to teach relevant content for the engagement of their pupils. This will create less stress, better teaching, better engagement and better results. Rather than this one-way or the highway approach that is the new curriculum. Which, might I add, has overlooked SEND and openly admitted by a member of the panel who is leading the assessment without levels – the death of education as we know it, and not a good one.

  7. I agree that kids need to do exams later in their education but I believe that SATs were the worst thing to ever enter our education system. I think we are producing a generation of children, quite often boys, who have low self-esteem because they are being forced to do things they simply are not ready for all because their SATs target says they need to achieve a ‘good’ level so the school looks ‘good’ for OFSTED. As a teacher I wanted the best for all the children in my class but without inflicting ‘levels’ and ‘targets’ on children from age 5. And yes there is the argument that they’ll encounter ‘stress’ in the workplace when they’re older but is constant testing really setting them up for coping with it later in life or does it just mean a whole life spent feeling like you aren’t as clever as other people (beginning in primary school)? Surely less testing = less stress for children and teacher = greater productivity and enjoyment for all.
    That is one of many reasons that I have left teaching after 17 years. That and ‘pink’ and ‘green’ pen comments that most of the 5 year olds couldn’t read anyway! Another piece of ‘pen pushing’ to satisfy OFSTED. I would have thought an enthusiastic teacher giving verbal comments during lessons was much more beneficial and the children would remember it more than comments they can’t even read. So I suggest an investigation into marking and the hours it takes would help.

  8. I am very concerned about the epidemic levels of stress and stress related illness in the teaching profession. I observe that this is not always evenly distributed in schools and some highly gifted and hardworking teachers have either left the profession or are thinking of leaving. Reforms have sometimes encouraged teachers to seek ambitious, professional leaps without having mastered important aspects of professional development, including time in the classroom. Some of the more traditional qualities of teachers have also been heavily undervalued and pay and career progression has been unhelpfully difficult for some very able educators. Too often, schools are fiefdoms run more in accord with with feudal law than good employment practice, which would allow more for the cherishing of relationships and humanity. There can be avoidance of difficult issues and the generation of paper work just to show compliance. Other concerns often raised are student behaviour and various issues surrounding marking. I believe there are some serious challenges for the teaching profession to face regarding the quality of its leadership and the accessibility of leadership roles for those who are prepared to put the welfare of staff alongside the pupils. Many schools lack principle and moral direction and that includes some schools rated as outstanding. This, I believe, is a cause of much stress, at many levels.

  9. I don’t think that the powers that be give a hoot. It is up to school leaders to find creative solutions to manage the necessities of the job, with staff wellbeing. Clearly our raison d’être is for the education/welfare/wellbeing of our children but we have a duty of care for the wellbeing of our staff (and indeed ourselves!). In the spirit of the Far East, we have formed a staff wellbeing working party and named 2015-2016 as ‘The Year of The Teacher.’ We have been working towards 4 PPA sessions for staff per week (almost cracked it!) to enable more collaborative and effective use of time. This is a snippet of other creative measures for dealing with the plethora of day to day school issues. The aim is to bring the association of educating with happiness/feeling of reward/positivity despite hard work and challenge/a bit altruistic, when we see our children succeed, one of the reasons many of came in to education in the first place.

  10. I agree so much with Catgirl3’s comments, re boys and low self esteem. I am a retired primary teacher, but also a mother of a son. As a parent, I could work out from teachers open evening comments whether they too were parents, or parents of only females!

    Historically, boys were allotted grammar school entry on lower performance than girls – in recognition of later development in some areas. Then followed approaches to support girls and even up attainment in some subject areas, e.g. science and maths. Very valid intentions of course. But too late followed evidence of physiological brain differences predominant in one gender or the other. Meantime the lower esteem of many of my generation’s females has been replaced by low esteem predominating in young males. We need to again be allowed to work in the best interests of each individual in the context of their developmental stage.
    But to the writer who focusses on social class and catchment, I can say from my experiences that the stress issues are merely different in schools of differing social catchments. The profession needs to unite rather than divide. That writer refers to children of professional parents being able to afford tutoring; equally I have come across offspring of unemployed parents, defined as financially needy but emotionally sound because of not being pushed or compared by competitive parents, having often two loving parents at home and being taught by teachers who are left to do their jobs by non-educationally attaining parents. As teachers I don’t think we should forget that the state education system came about because some parents would never ensure the education of their children when there was no free state education in place. Those teachers who complain about ‘non-supportive parents should perhaps not be working in the state sector but seeing the stress of the pressures of those whose main support for their children is to dip their hands into their pockets to pay school fees.

  11. For the Love of Learning

    It sounds like so much whinging when we raise concerns about this stuff
    but many in the teaching profession have had just about enough
    of prejudicial ideologies dictating education policy.
    Its time to debate this issue with some cool, objective honesty.
    Another drily balanced report maybe, whose contrivance makes you weary?
    No! To hell with PC, teacherly talk. For what it’s worth, here’s my personal theory.

    To start with what’s the purpose of educating our young folk?
    “For each to achieve their full potential” educationalists will invoke.
    “To advance the body of knowledge”, academics might agree,
    “To provide a numerate, literate workforce to fuel the economy”
    could summarise corporate business’s requirement,
    or to launch a prosperous career to fund a long deserved retirement
    may be the individual’s ultimate, often unrequited aim.
    “Chill-ax bud” quips indolent youth, favouring fickle “instant fame”.

    Long gone are the days when one could expect a job for life
    when a man could plot each step ahead – buy a house, get a wife!
    The old sureties of social cohesion are rent apart in the modern world we roam.
    The castle keep metaphorically replaced by the journeyman’s mobile home.
    A rollercoaster career can loop many loops as the years unfold.
    “Redundancy is a retraining opportunity” I was once euphemistically told.

    A “portfolio of skills and capabilities” is the new educational prize.
    “with the flexibility to seize opportunities as they arise.”
    For some who tread the higher education path the trap is set
    A lack of graduate positions combined with an albatross of debt
    Unless perchance good fortune decrees
    a family friend, in turn, needs an unpaid intern and one’s allowance covers the fees.

    Continued professional development and in-house training abounds
    but key questions in the education debate are what our children need to learn and how
    do we satisfy these multifarious demands on our schools?
    Do examination-driven curricula produce well drilled, but incapable, fools?
    Does the fact that it’s easier to measure, make academic intelligence supreme?
    and conversely, can over-emphasis on self expression lead to unrealistic dreams?

    The saga of man’s voyage to understand the world involves far more
    than amassing banks of data over which some wise professor can pore.
    It’s about how we apply our knowledge to further human endeavour
    not to maximise our certificate haul or to boast about how clever
    we are compared to those less fortunate than we.
    As the proverb goes “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

    By the way, when in our schools did it become a commonly accepted feature
    that responsibility for their success transferred from students to their teachers?

    Though few would disagree that literacy and numeracy are learning’s basic tools,
    many lament their curricular dominance in our primary schools.
    Experienced secondary teachers recount in exasperated terms
    how the on-paperly-able seem less able to employ the basic principles they’ve learned.
    Research shows that the human brain thrives on a network of interconnections,
    yet linear learning and assessment constricts our ever restricted direction.

    Who decided that it should become a commonly accepted feature
    for dogmatic frameworks to usurp the professional experience of teachers?

    History abounds with pioneers, Churchill and Einstein among them
    who today would be labelled with the SEN which produced such strong men.
    Some say the growth in Attention Deficit Disorders, behind which some parents hide,
    disguises a deficit in the attention, they find inadequate time to provide.
    Yet there are others, needing specially trained support, for whom
    underfunding means frustrated exclusion within the “inclusive” classroom.
    Overworked teachers are expected to differentiate their teaching of every child
    in 15 classes of over 20, each with their own learning (or disengagement) style.

    Since when, did it start to become a commonly accepted feature
    that the onus for children’s welfare, shifted from their parents towards their teachers?
    Innumerate politicos demand “above average” results at all times
    “Improbable objectives, in need of improvement” should read the press headlines
    It’s self-evident to me that a joy of learning is more difficult to inspire
    when teachers are over-burdened with targets. It begs the question “Why
    are we stopping to enter evidence of a job we try hard to do well,
    producing over-analysed, pseudo-data with which they can tell
    us what we already knew but now have less time to do something about.
    Meanwhile real Maths and English attainment decline. How can anybody doubt
    that constant pressure for perfect results, results in demoralised staff
    but worse, devalues the efforts of students more suited to a scholarly path.
    Teachers under duress to achieve ever-improving figures
    tend to force-feed kids information with less pedagogical rigour.

    And there lies the lie. It’s as clear as a beacon to see,
    that the copious data which I input is regurgitated to check up on me.
    As an engineer I learned that measuring the rate of fluid flow,
    by inserting a probe in a pipe, disturbs the very parameter you want to know.
    The fool proof way is to turn on the tap after putting some container you’ve got
    at the other end, then counting the seconds to fill the pot!

    So can anyone tell me how it became a commonly accepted feature
    that liability for lack of achievement moved from the learner to the teacher?

    Whilst I would never support the return of the cane-wielding sadistic bully
    who patrolled the yards of my schooldays tracking down those who were not fully
    dressed in regulatory attire and issuing summary retribution on the spot,
    the current “rights with no responsibilities” ethos has, unsurprisingly, not
    produced an equitable balance between action and consequence,
    but threats and false accusations, against which teachers have little defence.
    Head teachers tend to listen, with a budgetry ear you may have heard,
    to parents’ opinions first, the students’ voice, and lastly, to the teacher’s word.
    As someone so succinctly put
    it “It now appears that the slipper is on the other foot”.

    In inverting the rules we look like fools so now it’s an accepted feature
    that responsibility for poor behaviour rests less on students; more on their teachers.
    In this world of over-indulgence, being “less late” is worthy of praise,
    a prize if you “put your hand up first”, or “bring a pen on consecutive days”.
    Children pour scorn on false eulogies and manipulate our scams.
    We humans have evolved to win at all costs (and get away with what we can).

    Learning at its best is an exciting adventure, fuelled by a hunger for truth,
    for answers to limitless questions; the prerogative of youth.
    How dry then the imposition of deadlines or to cram for regurgitory tests?
    In my daughter’s words “what use are targets when I always just do my best?”

    The solution to this conundrum, educationalists endlessly explore,
    but, for me, the key is to redirect the focus back onto the child once more.

    They push teachers into ever smaller pigeon holes I’ve found,
    but I’m no pigeon. The only hole you’ll get me in is in a box six feet under ground.
    The game players and bandwagon jockeys soon learn
    how to ride the favourite till its race is run then turn
    adeptly to adopt new acronyms and jargonese
    spawning sycophantic schemes to seduce the referees.
    While the yes-men and acolytes prosper, diving through hoops without failure,
    we, the clique-free, smile impervious smiles at the emperor’s latest regalia.
    But those who dare challenge the ever-changing rules – beware.
    Smiling assassins snipe silently on sight to secure their spurious spurs.

    As I sometimes half joke with my classes, an important thing they should know
    is that we humans are just clots of recycled chemicals which coagulate briefly then go
    off, to reform as something else somewhere, so while we’re here we might as well strive
    to be kind to others and learn how to learn for the diminutive span of our lives.

    We should encourage politicians to engender two enduring educational features:-
    1. Enthuse learners in the love of learning
    2. Entrust teaching to their teachers.


  12. Yes of course – Here’s another you may like.

    Good bye Mr. B

    You know that hackneyed old expression about
    The one teacher who helped you to see
    The possibilities within yourself
    Well for me that was friendly Mr. B

    Like so many pupils throughout history
    Mathematics was a mystery to me
    But with his care, dedication and patience
    Its spell was broken for me by Mr. B

    He’d often hunker down or pull up a chair
    And sit down right beside the likes of me
    He could lift you up till you reached a higher plateau
    And he’d never let you down; Mr. B

    He’d changed career from engineering to teaching
    To use his knowledge to help the community
    But couldn’t stand the double standards of the education game
    Helping kids was the only goal for Mr. B

    He saw through incessant, myriad procedures
    He’d endured them all before in industry
    The dystopian demands of command and control
    Anathema to jovial Mr. B

    Disparaging of the devotees to data
    His affable approach was over-friendly
    For the taste of the target setting scrutineers
    When they observed the pupil-centred Mr. B

    But his compassionate approach was much respected
    By those colleagues who would take the trouble to see
    How he nurtured lesser able kids with low self esteem
    Till they looked forward to double maths with Mr. B

    But eventually the pressure took its toll on him
    The constant criticism caused him misery
    So he returned to his previous profession
    But if I know the kindly mind of Mr. B
    He’d have felt he was abandoning the children
    Who enjoyed his genuine personality
    So good luck in your escape back to the future
    Goodbye and keep on smilin’ Mr. B
    It’s largely thanks to you I’m writing this poem
    In my first term here at University
    ‘Cause I achieved that grade ‘C’ in ‘A’ level maths
    And only by a few points …………………..
    Missed a ‘B’!


  13. Teaching has become more stressful in today’s world, because of family breakdown and less religious and community involvement, along with too much stress and pressure, has resulted in children who are far less well-behaved than they were in the past. So the teacher spends more time in discipline than teaching! When I was teaching village children in Sri Lanka, I didn’t feel stressed out, because the children wanted to learn, and they were respectful and well-behaved. On the other hand, when I taught Korean children in a summer camp in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I was TREMENDOUSLY stressed out, because the students didn’t really want to be there (they were just there because sent by their parents) – they wanted to enjoy their summer vacation – and therefore were extremely naughty. Many of these Korean students also had broken families and other psychological problems.

  14. Well it’s day one of the summer holidays…
    And I have already spent 4 hours and 50 minutes getting stuff done for my new class in September. Have decided to attempt keeping a log of own time spent on stuff for school this year. I wonder how that will pan out…

  15. As a primary teacher, and in a school where teaching assistants were occupied mainly on teaching, I usually spent the first week of summer hols in school passing on data to colleagues, via email contact or in school and sorting things out in my classroom – taking down displays etc. The week before term started was also spent in school. I seethed when hearing complaints of long teacher holidays.

    Before becoming a teacher, I had 20+ years experience in other occupations. In those jobs, by working far less hours than those teachers work in term-time, I was always able to use my flexi-time credits, together with annual leave, to be at home during all school holidays. My son and daughter, both good English graduates, would not consider teaching as a career. They were able to earn far more within a few years of graduating, be able to travel/take the cheaper in term-time holidays and next perk a company car!

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