Inspections cause teacher stress, and 4 other findings from Ofsted's wellbeing research

Ofsted has found its own inspections are among a host of reasons for poor teacher wellbeing, according to new research published today.

The new report also found that parents and senior leaders also contribute to teacher stress.

Here are five of the most interesting findings from the research.

 

1. Ofsted is a big cause of teacher stress

Respondents said they feared the threat of Ofsted inspections, with an increased administrative workload required in the run-up to inspectors’ visits. They also complained of “pointless Ofsted tick-box tasks” devised by school leaders.

“Very long hours” were also observed to keep up with a perceived “evidence culture” set by the Department for Education and Ofsted, the report found.

“Misguided priorities are created through the focus on what Ofsted is perceived to want, rather than what pupils need,” it continued. Examples of this include a narrow focus on test outcomes and pressure on progress for inspectors.

The research suggested the situation could be improved through broadening the inspection focus to take into account pupils’ holistic experience and development as well as grades.

There were also calls for Ofsted to be a less “threatening” organisation. Inspectors should instead be able to build professional, constructive and “formative” relationships with school staff.

 

2. Overall, teacher wellbeing is low

Teachers overwhelmingly love their profession, but positive factors are outweighed by high workloads, poor work-life balance, a perceived lack of resources and too little support from leaders, particularly in regards to managing bad behaviour.

Teachers also felt as though they have limited policy influence and insufficient funding to deliver the goals they would like to.

Ofsted highlighted that these negative feelings can lead to higher levels of sickness absence and teachers leaving the profession.

Responding to the findings, Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO at charity Education Support Partnership, said: “It’s deeply concerning – but sadly not surprising – to see the high number of teachers reporting that their job is impacting negatively on their mental health.

“This aligns with our own research where over three quarters of teachers experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work, considerably higher than the national rate of 60 per cent for UK employees.”

 

3. Parents add to the strain

Parents are often a source of anxiety and increased workload for teachers, the report found.

Reasons for this include parents’ unrealistic expectations for their children, the frequency of emails with an expectation of an instant reply and parents raising concerns or complaints inappropriately.

There exists a “culture of competition”, in which parents share schools’ response rates among themselves, the report states.

There is also a lack of parental respect, which ranges from a lack of trust in staff to inappropriate and aggressive behaviour.

The imbalance of power is believed to lie in parents’ favour, with social media giving parents a platform to publicly shame school and teachers.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said it was “high time leaders took steps to end this ‘instant response culture’, that is putting huge pressure on teachers, and allow them to focus on the important work of teaching”.

 

4. Teachers spend less than half their working week teaching

Full-time teachers reported working 51 hours on average during the week, while senior leaders worked 57 hours on average.

Ofsted’s research found teachers spend less than half of their working week teaching, with lesson planning, marking and administrative tasks taking up a large part of the rest of their time.

 

5. Senior leaders aren’t supportive enough

Senior leaders are not always seen as providing sufficient support for managing pupils’ behaviour, the report found.

Respondents said senior leaders do not work with teachers when it is necessary to solve discipline problems jointly, and that issues are made worse by an inconsistent approach to managing behaviour.

Senior leaders were urged to create a positive working environment in which staff feel supported, valued and listened to, and have an appropriate level of autonomy.