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Reducing teacher stress: how technology can help find a balance between wellbeing & workload

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Although highly rewarding, teaching has always been a challenging and demanding profession. It requires extensive effort, tireless dedication, and a selfless, empathetic nature.

In recent years, the job has become increasingly difficult. Facing unmanageable workloads, shrinking wages, and unrealistic accountability measures, it’s no surprise that teacher vacancies are at their highest level since 2010. Education in the UK reached a critical point earlier this month, with 300,000 teachers taking strike action across England and Wales.

As a new MIS provider to the UK market, we host regular school events to foster a community and share ideas. At our latest Strategic Partner Luncheon, we asked a diverse collection of Compass schools if their experience matched the latest stats, with many attendees sharing concerns around workload, wellbeing, staff shortages, student engagement and a lack of appropriate resources.

In this article, we explore the growing trend and cause of teacher burnout, and how technology can help transform your school.

This checklist was developed to assess your school’s performance in the topics discussed in this article:

Download here

Teacher burnout

One of the biggest talking points among the education sector is the growing impact of teacher burnout. A 2021 survey of over 3,000 education staff found that 77% of teachers experience poor mental health due to their work and 72% were stressed.

When left unchecked, these symptoms often lead to burnout – a prolonged period of intense occupational stress due to excessive demands on teacher time, energy and mental bandwidth.

Across the UK, many teachers are experiencing high levels of stress, exhaustion, and a lack of support, leading to increased absenteeism and low morale. According to a 2018 study by the National Education Union, 81% of teachers considered leaving the profession in the past year, with 34% citing workload as the primary reason for their consideration.

What does teacher burnout look like?

With a wide array of symptoms, burnout can look different for each individual, but at its core, there are three main signs to look out for:

Exhaustion

Teachers may experience both physical and emotional fatigue, which can manifest in many ways, including irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, constant exhaustion, insomnia and many physical symptoms.

Detachment from the job

When experiencing burnout, teachers may distance themselves from social events and interactions with friends and family outside of work. At school, they may lose their enthusiasm for teaching, exhibit increased cynicism regarding their role, talk about compassion fatigue, and avoid working with their colleagues.

Dee Ryan, Principal at Loreto Girls’ Secondary in Bray, Ireland believes that remaining connected to the school community is an essential step in supporting teachers suffering from burnout.

“Detachment from the job can stem from an inability to connect with students,” explains Dee. “The school runs better when everybody has the information that they need at their fingertips without having to search for it. When staff have that information, it empowers them to move beyond simply arriving in the morning and leaving in the evening. Teachers can now connect with their students in a different way. One that works best for both the teacher and student. They’re able to connect with our school as a community that hasn’t been possible without the right technology.”

Reduced performance

As a result of feeling exhausted and stressed, teachers may experience decreased productivity and lose their drive to perform their job effectively. They may spend more time completing tasks and show signs of low self esteem.

What’s causing so much teacher burnout?

Here are some of the most common causes of burnout and other teaching related stress.

Accountability pressures

A survey by the Nuffield Foundation has found that UK teachers believe that accountability pressures are the primary driver of stress in the profession. Sadly, many teachers feel that they are held to account for things outside of their control, leading to high levels of stress and low morale.

Workload and hours

Juggling several responsibilities, such as lesson planning, marking work (60% of teachers regard this as a major cause of stress), and supporting students, can be incredibly demanding of teachers. Add to this mix, growing staff shortages resulting in many teachers having to cover subjects they are not trained in, and it becomes clear why many are leaving the profession.

When asked in our most recent survey at the Strategic Partner Luncheon with our UK schools, 100% of attendees bring work home every week, with 44% bring work home 3+ nights a week.

Low pay

During our recent Strategic Partner Luncheon, one Compass school highlighted this ongoing challenge, stating that it’s “hard to find any staff in the education market due to the salary of public sector workers compared to private”.

While many educators experience their greatest stress while at school, there’s no doubt shrinking real wages have contributed heavily to staff shortages and teacher burnout. Highlighted in a report by the Education Policy Institute, teachers in England earn 12% less than other professionals with similar qualifications. This growing gap between workload and pay makes it hard for teachers to fulfil their basic needs and reach financial stability, resulting in greater stress at both work and home.

Ineffective technology

It’s no secret that the education sector is slower than the corporate world to receive or adopt new technology and systems, with many schools often forced to use software that is clunky and outdated. In a recent U.S report, two in three (63%) K-12 districts across the country lost teachers to other school systems because employees sought a more advanced technology experience. When we think about how hard it is to retain staff in the industry due to the variety of growing work stressors, losing staff to something like outdated tech seems almost incomprehensible.

How technology can help solve these problems?

Yes, the list of challenges facing our teachers is long, and no, there isn’t a quick fix.

A drastic shift is needed at the policy level, and a general swing in the public’s perception of education is required for any significant change to occur. But as an integral part of the whole teaching process, technology has the power to shoulder some of the load moving forward.

Here’s how:

Reduce administrative workload

Using a comprehensive Management Information System (MIS) allows school staff to spend less time on unnecessary administration and more time engaging with students, parents, and the wider school community. With the ability to streamline tedious manual processes, platforms like Compass offer a single tool to manage student information, learning and assessment, wellbeing, finances, events and much more.

Reduce costs and free up funds for teaching and learning

When we interviewed a school who switched to Compass MIS in 2022 about having a single location for all important resources, data and tools, they highlighted how teacher education has played a vital role in organising the school’s management and streamlining long term costs. Taking advantage of Compass’ full suite, the school

“The first thing is training. It stops duplication of training for multiple systems and it means that when new members staff on board, you are only training on one system. Another huge benefit is it stops data silos, which is a huge reduction in risk for our school. But the other thing as well is cost. It cuts down on cost as well.” notes the school’s representative.

Provide easy access to high quality resources

With many teachers noting that class sizes have made it impossible to create the best personal experience possible for all of their students, digital learning tools provide a significant advantage in that they enable students to learn 40%–60% faster than in traditional classrooms. With access to relevant coursework, templates and themes, teachers can create materials quickly, reducing the time spent planning and providing a better work life balance.

Loreto Bray Deputy Principal, Frances Ward believes that the ability to quickly access differentiated planning resources have helped student outcomes and teacher stress.

“In the past, you would be given your class list at the beginning of the year. A lot of the time, teachers assume it’s a pretty even spread of abilities across the class. It’s not uncommon to be unaware of a new student who’s a high achiever, or a child who’s experiencing hardships at home. With large class numbers and a very diverse group in front of you, quickly planning your classes without having to go looking for up to date information gives you the best chance at offering tailored individual learning plans.”

Make it easier to collaborate

With teachers and students in need of more support than ever before, it’s crucial for educators to have access to tools that aid their professional development and bring them closer to their colleagues. With dedicated collaboration technology such as Compass Connect, schools can improve support for teacher-teacher and teacher-leader relationships, as well as strengthen their culture, boost pedagogical understanding and increase teacher satisfaction. This technology built directly into the same ecosystem as their attendance, registers and technological “backbone of the school” streamlines communication and boosts morale.

Foster a sense of Community

Create a team-oriented environment by organising team-building activities and social events. This will help employees to build relationships with their colleagues and feel more connected to the organisation.

Provide meaningful work

What’s more meaningful than educating the youth, right? One of the most attractive characteristics of the teaching profession is the relationship and impact schools have on young learners. However in the day to day grind this can be lost amongst admin staff, business managers and other unsung heroes of the school. This can be done by providing challenging tasks, setting clear goals, and offering opportunities for professional development.

Give teachers a voice

Survey apps – previously seen as adding to teacher workloads, have become a crucial part in making sure teachers are heard. Platforms such as Teacher Tapp, allow educators to respond each day to issues that are shaping the future of teaching. From questions about learning programs, teacher wellbeing, wages, education policy and a whole host of other insights, teachers can share their opinions directly, providing decision makers with a clear picture of what’s happening in U.K schools.

Let your partners guide you on the tech journey.

There’s no doubt that over the last three years, teachers have been experiencing more stress than ever before. Remote learning, coming back into the classroom, catching up on lost instructional time, and re-establishing learning relationships have made things much more overwhelming and stressful.

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed – teachers are still crucial in changing student lives. If they leave due to burnout and unchecked stress, it will have long lasting negative effects on the students they care for, and the public as a whole.

Compass co-founder and CEO, John de la Motte believes technology companies have a huge role to play in improving teacher and student outcomes.

“It’s our responsibility as an education company to stay ahead of school expectations and help them deliver better outcomes through innovation. With expanding investment in data and analytics, we can really help teachers in the classroom. With this steady stream of data, we can help schools provide interventions, action plans, and wellbeing observations based on previous data. Ultimately, this will help us improve academic outcomes for children.”

As classrooms become more digitally connected than ever, technology can play a key role in promoting teacher wellbeing, which in turn, will help increase student outcomes.

Ultimately, by using the right technology at the right time, policy makers, schools, and education organisations can bring about positive change, creating a supportive and collaborative environment for educators – one that is less stressful and more attractive to newcomers and the experienced alike.

Use this checklist to rank how your school is performing in these areas:

Download here

Used every day across the UK, Ireland and Australia, Compass is the most comprehensive management information system yet, enabling your school to drive increased parent engagement, spend less time on administration and more time delivering great learning experiences.

Ready to make the switch?

Check out our website to watch a demo or request an information pack.

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