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Teachers feel unsupported on classroom behaviour

Ofsted has published research that shows the well-being of most teachers is generally low or moderate.

Teachers believe there is a lack of support for tackling poor classroom behaviour, either from school leaders or from parents, new research has found. In a report published at the end of the school year looking at the well-being of teachers, Ofsted has found that managing poor behaviour in the classroom is one of the main causes of low morale.

Ofsted carried out extensive research among staff in schools and further education and skills (FES) providers in order to better understand the issues that lead to poor occupational well-being, and make recommendations to address them.

The report finds that teachers overwhelmingly love their profession and enjoy teaching and building relationships with pupils. However, the overall well-being of most teachers is low. Positive factors are outweighed by high workloads, poor work–life balance, a perceived lack of resources and too little support from leaders, especially for managing bad behaviour. All these negative feelings can lead to higher levels of sickness absence and teachers leaving the profession entirely.

In both schools and FES providers, Ofsted found that relationships with parents can add greatly to stress at work. When parents are supportive it helps build positive relationships and allows schools to have a beneficial impact on the community. However, the report finds that parents are often a source of anxiety and increased workload. This is due to a variety of reasons, including parents’ unrealistic expectations for their child, the frequency of emails expecting an instant reply and parents raising concerns or complaints inappropriately.

Open access to staff email addresses puts pressure on teachers to provide an immediate response. Some participants in Ofsted’s research talked about a ‘culture of competition’, in which parents share schools’ response rates among themselves. As a result, the instant response email culture adds to teachers’ workload and interferes with their work–life balance.

Teachers also spoke about a lack of parental respect, ranging from a lack of trust in staff, to inappropriate and aggressive behaviour. An imbalance of power was said to lie in parents’ favour, as social media gives parents the power to publicly express negative comments about a school or teacher.

Today’s report recommends several actions senior leaders can take to improve relationships with parents and benefit staff well-being in the next school year, such as informing parents about the most appropriate ways of raising concerns, and providing support to staff when a complaint has been raised. Schools could also consider alternative ways of communicating with parents, in order to alleviate workload.

Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

Parents rightly have high expectations for their child. The vast majority of schools are doing a good job, and parents should be supportive and trust them to get on with it. This is particularly important when it comes to behaviour and school discipline. Schools need to have a strong behaviour policy, which will include some sanctions, to allow all children to learn. Parents should support it.

Schools also have to play their part to improve their staff’s well-being and manage the expectation of parents. It’s 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.

Teaching is one of the most important jobs there is, so we need to make sure it is highly valued by society and a rewarding career to choose. As the school year comes to a close, I hope parents really appreciate all the long hours and hard work that teachers have put in for their child.

Other findings in today’s report

Teachers overwhelmingly enjoy teaching and are positive about their workplace and colleagues, but they feel their profession is undervalued in society and lacks sufficient funding.

Workload is high, affecting work–life balance. Teachers report spending less than half of their working week on teaching, while marking, lesson planning, and administrative tasks take up the rest of their time.

Educators feel they do not have enough influence over policy, which changes too quickly and leads to increased workloads.

Ofsted is noted to be a source of stress, largely because inspections are reported to increase administrative workload, but also because some school leaders devise ‘pointless Ofsted tick-box tasks’.

Senior leaders sometimes to contribute to low well-being. This is when there is poor communication with staff, an autocratic management style, workload pressure, and insufficient support and collaboration with staff.

Some of Ofsted’s recommendations to improve teachers’ well-being

Leaders must support teachers to consistently implement behaviour policies.

Senior leaders should develop staff well-being by creating a positive working environment in which staff feel supported, valued and listened to, and have an appropriate level of autonomy.

The Department of Education should continue to reduce administration in schools and FES providers and make sure that external support services, such as for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and mental health issues are properly resourced.

To avoid unnecessary workload, leaders and teachers should make sure they are familiar with Ofsted’s new education inspection framework (EIF). Unnecessary data should not be collected for inspection. Local authorities and multi-academy trusts should ensure they do not make unnecessary demands for data.

For its part, Ofsted has added behaviour and attitudes as a separate judgement area in the EIF, to ensure that behaviour is rigorously monitored, and staff well-being forms part of the leadership and management judgement.

The EIF focuses on the quality of education, which will mitigate against the unintended culture of schools and providers producing large amounts of data.

Evaluation of the implementation of the EIF will look at the extent to which it is leading to unnecessary workload, so that steps can be taken to alleviate any issues.

For the research, a questionnaire was issued to a random sample of 1,000 schools and 250 FES providers. The aim was to ensure a representative balance across education phases and types of schools and colleges.

In total, 2,293 staff from 290 schools and 2,053 staff from 67 FES providers responded to the questionnaire. Ofsted selected 19 schools and six FES providers for focus-group interviews, based on the reported levels of well-being at work, phase of education, type of institution and region.

There was a rich variety of job roles among participants, including teaching assistants, higher-level teaching assistants, teachers, middle leaders, senior teachers/lead practitioners, senior leaders, headteachers and governors.

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