Ways to reduce your teacher stress levels that can be implemented easily!

A recent YouGov survey came up with some rather brutal findings surrounding the teaching profession. Putting it bluntly, morale in the teaching profession is on the decline and most teachers feel undervalued and underpaid. A whopping 40% of those surveyed said they were likely to leave teaching in the next five years! This is a shocking figure and one that cannot be ignored.

To see what can be done about this we must look in the first place to see what is causing this mass exodus. The survey found the 83% of teachers felt stressed because of their job.

The main causes were:

  1. marking workload 60%
  2. inspection regime 42%
  3. changing policy 42%
  4. behaviour management 45%
  5.  lesson planning 23%
  6. pressure from parents 18%
  7. league tables 18%

Depending on role, the main causes changed slightly. For Headteachers the main cause was inspection regime and for class teachers it was workload and marking.

Knowing the cause of your stress is just the first step. Finding a solution and implementing it may actually cause more stress if we’re not careful!

So, what can be done? Let’s take the causes in turn.

  • Marking workload.

Have a look at your school’s marking and assessment policies. Ask your team, why do we mark? Who is the marking for? Are there ways in which pupil understanding and attainment can be assessed without endless hours of marking? Can a traffic light system be used for self-assessment to show pupil understanding? Are you lucky (rich?) enough to have TA support in your classes? Could their time be used creatively to gain information about pupil understanding and next steps for planning? Any TA worth employing will know the children in the class just as well as their class teacher!

The Independent Teacher Workload Review Group produced a report in 2016 stating that “all marking should be meaningful, manageable and motivating.” Now, as a class teacher, this doesn’t actually sound too bad!

Once marked, time should then be given to pupils to respond to the meaningful, targeted marking that is taking place now the policy and school expectations have been reviewed. 

  • Inspection regime.

All schools live with the threat of inspection hanging over them. Even schools deemed to be Outstanding have to keep at this level of attainment and have the pressure of continuing to be as good as they have already been judged. As a class teacher there is not much that can be done to reduce the stress linked with the continual threat inspection apart from keeping on top of paperwork and your classroom environment. With a reduction in marking expectations from a change of whole school policy (see point 1) it should be easier to keep up-to-date. Little and often is the way forward. If you use some sort of assessment/tracking tool in your class trying keep it up-to-date at the end of each week instead of half term. Completing tick boxes for the two objectives you have focussed on at the end of the week for your class will only take 10 minutes. Leave it until the end of half term and it will take hours. It could also be out of date by up to 5 weeks and this will cause a extra stress trying to update it when you get ‘that’ phone call for an inspection the next day! The same goes for Early Years Learning Journeys and even report writing.

  • Changing policy.

There is not much that schools can do about changing education policies apart from keeping calm and taking time to implement them in a way that fits with the schools ethos. Strong leadership is needed here and a full understanding of what is changing. It is also worth noting that only Statutory Guidance legally has to be implemented in schools.

  • Behaviour management

When a pupil misbehaves in the class it as far great impact than solely on their own learning. The atmosphere in the classroom quickly becomes unconducive to learning and the whole group is disrupted. A clear school behaviour policy and close work with parents and SENCO will help to address any behavioural needs in the class. Regular brain breaks and a constant review of provision are also needed. Well planned for lessons that are prepared and resourced appropriately. 

  • Lesson planning

This along with workload and marking is probably the hardest point to address as it is constantly present and never ending. Time can be spent during holidays writing medium-term plans and schemes of work but these constantly need to be altered and tweaked in response to your continuous assessment for learning. An important point to remember is who is the planning for? It doesn’t need to be published publicly. Planning is for the teacher and any TA in your class alone, no one else. It is there to record what you want to class to learn and how this will be achieved. If this means the medium-term plans are annotated, scribbled on and turned into usable working documents for the team then excellent! Assessment and Next steps for the learning are probably far more important than well-presented, neat plans.

Have a look at the needs of the class and see if there is any way they can be met with generic activities that require little specific detailed planning. ‘Read Write Inc’ lessons are repeated daily with only the specific phoneme/grapheme to be taught changing. The format of the daily lesson stays the same. This can also be the case with guided reading sessions, spelling work, tables etc. There are also many hundreds of resource website available where planning purchased or just downloaded to be used as a basis for your lesson and then tweaked for the specific needs of your class. Again, as long as the needs of the class have been planned for and delivered, it doesn’t matter who wrote the original planning. Team/collaborative planning is an even better way of providing the work, especially if your team knows your children and context of your school.

To reduce stress even further the class teacher must be respected by school leaders, parents, inspectors and even the Government as the expert in relation to the (small?!) group of children in their care. Teachers care passionately about their pupils and want the best for them. Why else would they be doing a job that leads to all this stress?


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