Teacher stress in England is a topic that has been raised over several years with many teachers opting to leave the profession, retire early or look for alternatives within education. Professor Wettstein carried out a study in 2020 that concluded that many factors lead to teaching being a highly stressful career across the globe.
Many teachers in England each year look towards the private sector for a less stressful teaching option but is this a viable alternative that will reduce teacher stress?
Are Private School Teachers Less Stressed?
A new article by Jude Brady and Elaine Wilson compares stress between state and private school teachers in England (2021).
The study concluded that teachers in the private sector do experience stress but that it may not be as intense as the stresses experienced by public sector teachers.
Types of Teacher Stress
In state schools, teachers often work between 55 and 80 hours a week with teachers citing that they regularly work on evenings and weekends. The structure of the academic year contributes to stress with long intense days that are broken up by holidays every 6-8 weeks. There is little time for recovery during term time, often leading to teacher burnout.
Although research is limited, private schools offer lots of out of school clubs and classes indicating that teacher hours may be similarly long during term time. They do benefit from longer holidays (up to 20 weeks annually) that may allow for more recovery time than enjoyed by state school teachers.
The article discusses the impact of workload on teachers. Many state school teachers reported the negative effects of management scrutiny with book scrutinies and marking policies being highlighted.
Some private school teachers reported that they had more autonomy than state school teachers and pressure for results came from pushy parents rather than government policies and outside agencies.
Reports from the DfE show that state school teachers who consider their student behaviour to be poor, are more likely to leave the profession. Support from management is a key factor in improving how teachers deal with behaviour and their ability to manage their stress.
TALIS data suggests that private school teachers had a better view of the behaviour in their schools, and do not link behaviour to their stress levels.
Smaller classes in private schools may be the cause of better behaviour management in the classroom. With pupil to teacher ratios of 8.5:1 in private schools compared to 18:1 in the state sector, it is easy to see why state school teachers find it harder to cope with their workload and behaviour management.
In the study, private school teachers said they found pushy parents more of an issue than in state schools. They experienced pressure from fee-paying parents who had extremely high expectations for academic results. The business element to the relationship appears to increase stress levels for private school teachers.
In contrast state school teachers rarely reported parents as a source of stress.
Words such as “overwhelming” and “soul-destroying” from state school teachers suggest that their stress levels are extremely intense. In contrast, most of the private school teachers found the workload and stress levels “manageable”.
Considering that stressed teachers are likely to be less effective in the classroom it seems that more could be done to reduce workload and the high stakes culture created in the state sector. Private schools may offer a less intense environment but teaching anywhere does not come without pressure. Policies that concentrate on removing unnecessary workload with strategies to improve the effectiveness of teaching would seem to be the way forward.