How to Improve Teacher Morale in an Increasingly Pressurised Environment

Within the British educational system there is currently a top down expectation where processes are put in place based upon conceptually driven ideals. This approach can, on the one hand, be very positive as it pushes people to reach for an ideal or goal  which allows for quicker evaluation of a situation. However, there tends to be a bias towards perceiving things in a certain way.

 

This is visible through the reliance we can see upon assessments and grades which, although it is necessary to be able to monitor progress, can imply that different approaches or styles are not valued, and also lacks a student-centred orientation.

 

This is highlighted through certain aspects of  Ofsted’s monitoring of schools and shows that, although it is possible for every school to achieve the same positive results, some schools will inevitably need more time and support to reach this ideal which the approach used by Ofsted is currently not addressing or meeting these particular needs.

 

Rather than a supportive network for schools that allows them to learn, grow and adapt from each other, Ofsted has become a policing system that, if we were to think about it in terms of a classroom teacher, is penalising its most underperforming and disadvantaged students for not keeping up, rather than offering the resources, support and understanding they really need.

 

The over dependency we are currently seeing on assessments and grades has left teachers largely feeling under appreciated and not taken seriously as professionals and far too much time has to be devoted to assessments, leaving little time for real learning. Furthermore, the overshadowing of Ofsted experienced by schools, rather than the intended effect of improvement, has created an atmosphere of overburdening and oppression where teachers feel they are being stringently overseen and therefore lack authority and do not feel valued.

 

In more practical terms, the UK government reported in 2015 that 84% of schools were receiving a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.[1] With this in mind, such excessive monitoring could be perceived, frankly, as unnecessary within a climate where resources continue to be cut from education.

 

The emphasis on this type of monitoring serves to detract attention from what should be an educator’s foremost focus, improving the minds and lives of their students through healthy learning and healthy social development.

 

The educational sector has seen a consistent stream of changes in recent years that has left the British educational system lacking stability as it has become increasingly business like in approach.

 

As this tension is felt across the educational sector, teachers are unable to alleviate a stressful working environment by finding another teaching job, leaving teachers in a position where they are likely to experience a stressful working environment until they feel they can no longer continue and therefore the only option is to leave the sector. This affects the longevity of teaching careers and has a knock on effect of affecting the quality of teaching. This is the trend we have, unfortunately, seen in recent times.

 

Therefore, due to ever increasing high performance expectations and a narrowing budget, we are seeing a knock-on effect where a teacher’s work-life balance is maintained at an unhealthy level.

The average teacher is expected to work well out of school hours and even into their holiday to keep on top of their increasing workload whilst also feeling policed, undervalued within their role and lacking in authority, without any real voice or outlet to actively improve theirs or their student’s positions.

 

It seems clear that a more person-centred approach is needed to improve this situation, that puts the student and the teacher back into focus in a less quantitative way. Part of this should be identifying and celebrating good practise when it is demonstrated within the school environment and the wider community.

 

A re-calibration of Ofsted, as the external monitoring body should be the instrument through which this refocus is implemented by creating a schools and teachers network that not only allows mutual support, idea sharing and highlighting of good practise but would also alleviate, in some part, the funds needed to monitor and support the educational sector as it would be self serving.

 

Further to this, it would allow teachers, who have first hand experience of the needs of the students, to actively have an impact. Also, allowing those teachers who wished to be actively involved, to get involved. This would give teachers a feeling of value and professional impact.

 

The most important way of improving teacher shortages and morale is to give them a different perspective/view of their role in society and within the education sector through inclusion and working together, rather than in opposition or externally from Ofsted. Rather than grades and statistics, teachers need to be recognised as professionals with extensive hands on experience. Only through this acclimatisation of perception can teacher morale been improved, and through it too, teacher shortages.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/record-number-of-pupils-in-good-or-outstanding-schools

 

by Leon Hady
He is the former Headteacher of an ‘Outstanding’ school in the UK. He now focuses on online learning having created an online video personalisation portal; helping over 100,000 students pass exams at 
www.tuitionkit.com and also helping teachers become qualified alongside a nationwide recruitment agency to combat the teacher shortage in the UK www.academics.tuitionkit.com