Teachers point towards school accountability as main driver of stress
A new study by UCL researchers has found that the close monitoring of schools and student achievement data in the English education system is unlikely to be a one-way street to “school improvement” due to the stress it causes teachers. The paper suggests that although increasing accountability may bring about short-term improvements in student performance, this could be counterproductive if it reduces teacher supply in the long-term and leads to shortages of high-quality teachers.
The researchers analysed data from the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) of over 100,000 teachers from more than 40 countries. They found that England sits towards the top of the ‘accountability’ scale and that high levels of measurements of educational performance - such as school assessments being used to make judgements about the effectiveness of teachers, whether there are school league tables and whether there are inspections of schools - could partly be driving higher stress levels among teachers in England.
The study also considered whether teachers were more likely to feel stressed about accountability if their colleagues felt stressed by it and found that teachers were twice as likely to say that they felt stressed by accountability if their colleagues were also stressed by this part of their job.
The authors note there are limitations to the study and the findings should be interpreted carefully. The study used cross-sectional data and therefore can only establish the presence (or absence) of a correlation, rather than causation. There also could be issues of what being ‘stressed’ means to people in different countries. Overall they say more longitudinal data on teachers is needed to monitor how levels of stress and wellbeing change when teachers are promoted or when school management changes.