Teacher wellbeing, workload and mental health. The distorted picture.

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In 1997 G.Brown handed over fiscal control of interests rates to the Bank of England. This move came to increase stability, prospects and growth of jobs to provide for the people. Before this, we saw a turbulent period where interests waved around as a gesture of political power. Education is currently experiencing the same political gesturing, this is generating a turbulent work place. One which is great impacting the wellbeing of our teachers.

Policy makers have no idea, school leaders are focusing to much on teachers and teachers are desperately trying to meet the needs of everyone. Nicky Morgan’s decision to introduce the “work load challenge” implied a complete lack of government understanding of the new pressures that reforms are having on teachers. From these reforms schools leaders told to increase the resolution on what is happening in the school. Finally teachers are adding these pressures on to their packed schedules.

On the ground interviews

Three perspectives: Teacher, Policy, Leaders

Leaders: When discussing the issue with Leaders of schools it became clear that the type of work which people are expected to complete hasn’t changed, but it the accountability which is causing the difficulties. For example, come to work on time, plan lessons, teach lesson and mark books, then get paid. Heightening accountability has resulted in the “same” work load, but significant increases in scrutiny. So, what’s happening is workload is increasing because practitioners are now fine coaming their practice to meet the new established accountability measures.  What are senior leaders doing to support staff?

Policy: Policy reforms need justification and these justifications comes from the impact which is associated to changes in quantitative data. For example, the transition to the Ebacc is a simple policy that will provide students with an enriched education. However, teachers are bending over backgrounds to make these changes real and bridge the gap between reality and government. The relative enriched of Ebacc reforms has been shown to be limited, so what is actually being implemented is an ideology that doesn’t take into account what is happening in the classroom. This begs the question, why are teachers no guiding reforms?

Teacher: Simply, workload is increasing this distorts where progress is being made. All teaching staff are experiencing a workload increase, in the majority of cases all staff attribute this increase to senior leadership heightening accountabilities on teacher performance. For example, performance related pay, learning walks, work scrutinises, seating plans, lessons plans, data tables, qualitative person reviews, class analysis regular progress reviews. All these new management strategies to monitor performance force staff to fine comb there work, this drastically increases work load. Unfortunately, this results in staff spending more time on making the learning relevant for the leaders as opposed for the students. Therefore, reforms are putting more emphasis on the teachers which detracts emphasis from the children.

Summary

It is clear that changing accountability measures across the industry has resulted in significant increases in work load. Not because the job has change but the scrutiny to which professionals are now expected to work under have. This accountability forces teachers to focus more on their own work and how it looks to SLT/ofsted in comparison to focusing on the best outcomes for the students. By using accountability measures the government is demanding increased control within every classroom, should we be concerned by this? What is clear is that educational leaders are detached from the actual pressures of the classroom.

Reading:

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/series/teacher-wellbeing-2014

http://teachersupport.info/sites/default/files/downloads/TSN-teacher-wellbeing-research-of-the-evidence-summary-2009.pdf

http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/MemberSupport/MemberGroups/HotTopics/TeacherWellbeingSurvey/NASUWT_004640

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Cultural Captial in Education – Incorporation into policy

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I want my horse to drink to survive, but I can not force the horse to drink water. This is true in education, a teacher can establish a learning environment for a pupil to be successful, but can not force success into a pupil. There must be a want or desire to do so. So how do we develop desire?

The Problem

Policy makers only focus on observing feedback which shows the strongest or clearest correlation which implies causation. (“Rule 1 of stats club never talk about stats club. Rule 1 of stats club, correlation doesn’t imply causation”). For example, greater attendance results in better attainment. True, but as the Young Foundation (2012) identifies this does not identify the true value added. True values are the personal attributes a student develops to increase their attainment, perseverance, confidence or a want for success. Rarely have I heard of someone not wanting success and being successful, we all have a degree of consciousness. If high academic attainment links to high performance, and this to personal attributes, where in policy are we planning to develop this?

Simple answer, not at all.

Developing soft skills (Non-cognitive skills)

It is these skills that define who we are and how we behave and the futures we make for ourselves. The Young Foundation (2012), EPI (2014) and FEA (2015) all support the idea that the developing non-cognitive skills is crucial to underpin academic and life success.

Outcome Model example:

  • The outcome model links the benefits of developing an individual’s non-cognitive skills (intrinsic and extrinsic) with benefits for both them and society. (This seems like a win-win situations, there are limitations).
    • Individual achievements of behaviours – Want to develop key skills to build their own success.
    • Social and emotional capabilities – Core skills that allows the person to develop their own desires.
    • Inter-personal relationships – Good parents and community contributes.
    • Benefits to society – Strong independent individuals who are not reliant on the state to support their success.

So, if there is clear evidence what is being done to introduce these concepts into educational policy?

The difficulty is identifying a clear correlation between good non-cognitive skills and academic and life success. West (2014) published a conflicted study that shows no linked between the non-cognitive skills and academic performance. Yet, the Young Foundation (2012) has clear evidence to identify a positive relationship between student’s emotional well being and socio-economic background. Policy decisions based on qualitative information is not reassuring. But, after reading reams of threads and literature there is a body evidence all pointing in the same direction that can not be ignored.

Recommendations for policy

The future directions of policy need to make an active effort to collect data through longitudinal studies and develop tests to identify the non-cognitive development of an individual over time. Hold Ofsted (hopefully in the future a college of teachers) accountable for ensuring that schools have effective systems of developing non-cognitive skills within their pupils. By not doing anything, the power of a student to make their own decisions academically and later on in life will continually shift reliance and dependence on others for support. Establishing a link between non-cognitive skills and academic performance has never been more important in a developed society.

In the future all the horses will have the appropriate non-cognitive skills to see the importance of drinking. The same will be true for our education system, students who have a desire for success.

References

West (2014) – http://cepr.harvard.edu/cepr-resources/files/news-events/cepr-promise-paradox.pdf

Fair Education Alliance (2015) – http://www.faireducation.org.uk/report-card/

Economic Policy Institute (2014) – http://www.epi.org/publication/the-need-to-address-noncognitive-skills-in-the-education-policy-agenda/

The Young Foundation (2012) – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175476/Framework_of_Outcomes_for_Young_People.pdf