Why exactly is morale so low in the teaching industry?

Lack of recognition and bullying are affecting the wellbeing of teachers, according to a study conducted by Emma Kell

Kell, an author and teacher, recently conducted a survey of 1,400 teachers to find out why morale is so low. Following numerous conversations with colleagues and fellow teachers, she wanted to get to the bottom of what is causing this low self-esteem and dissatisfaction within the teaching industry. With so many teachers becoming frustrated and disillusioned, despite having a great deal of potential, Kell decided to write a book about teacher retention and wellbeing.

The research for this book included a questionnaire about what teachers find challenging, what they enjoy about their jobs, what motivated them to join the profession, and their working hours. With 1,419 responses, Kell describes her findings as ‘alarming’.

One of the major problems identified was workload, with many teachers carrying out many more hours than specified in their contract. An additional 20 hours per week were being worked by 25 per cent of the participants, while 16 extra hours were being put in by 50 per cent.

The participants were also given a list of 12 factors and were asked to rank these in the order in which they most affected their wellbeing and motivation at work. 30 per cent of practising teachers said the highest factor was their workload.

The statement ‘My workload was manageable’ was disagreed or strongly disagreed with by 67 per cent of former teachers; meanwhile, 32 per cent named their excessive workload as the reason they left the profession.

Nicky Morgan became the secretary of state for education in 2014 and set out to address the lack of morale among teachers, receiving 44,000 responses to her workload challenge survey. Morgan released the findings of the survey in a recent publication, with data, planning and marking identified as the three major concerns. Speaking at the NASWUT conference in March, Morgan suggested that she would support the profession by tackling its workload.

Kell, however, says that workload is just the start of the problems. Her survey also asked an open question of former teachers about why they left the profession, with 12 out of 113 mentioning management bullying. One of the respondents said they had been bullied in every aspect of their professional life, while another said that discrimination and bullying at work had driven them to attempt suicide.

Another statement, ‘Teaching is positively portrayed in the media’, was agreed or strongly agreed with by just five per cent of the respondents, leading Kell to believe that lack of recognition is also playing a huge part in this frustration. ‘Teachers are respected by politicians’ was only agreed or strongly agreed with by three per cent.

Kell goes on to suggest that teachers feel their voices do not count, that they have been made to feel this way by their ignored petitions, and that head teachers are hearing about the latest reforms through reports on the television. She explains that this lack of inclusion in key policy decision making is undermining teachers and leading to misinformation, which causes them further stress.

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