Teachers must be better prepared for the emotional rigours of the job and helped to become more resilient, an international research project has concluded.
Workplace culture, especially the support of school leaders, has a key role to play in developing resilience, as does initial training and CPD, researchers argue.
They also said that resilience can be “eroded by policies that create demands for change that challenge teachers’ sense of agency in the classroom”.
The study considered a range of evidence from primary and secondary schools, teachers, psychologists and medical professionals. It also took into account case studies of teachers who have sought support from the charity Teacher Support Network.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and led by Professor Christopher Day of the University of Nottingham, the research’s conclusions have been published in a booklet entitled Beyond Survival: Teachers and Resilience.
The booklet describes resilience as the “capacity to recover from adverse events” and argues for “a more productive approach” in schools focused on CPD and developing supportive school environments.
It states: “The problem caused by lack of resilience is a significant one. Employees in the education sector report more work-related psychological ill-health, particularly stress, anxiety and depression, than do employees in other sectors.”
The booklet offers a range of case studies of how professionals in different contexts have worked to foster teacher resilience.
Official guidance from the Teaching Agency published this term asks institutions to test the emotional resilience of trainee teachers through the use of recommended “non-cognitive assessments” – but the research suggests “that this policy is unlikely to meet the long-term needs of teachers and schools”.
Prof Day said: “It seems to be clear from the evidence that the capacity and capability to exercise resilience, allied with knowledge of subject and pedagogy and a strong sense of moral purpose, is essential to teachers’ ability to sustain the intellectual and emotional energy and commitment that the best teaching demands.
“If this is indeed the case, it follows that efforts to increase the quality of teaching and raise standards of learning and achievement of all pupils must focus on efforts to build and sustain teacher resilience and that these efforts must take place in initial teacher training, at policy levels, and most of all, in schools themselves.”
Julian Stanley, chief executive of the Teacher Support Network, added: “School leaders need to be trained to create supportive environments in order that teachers can thrive. Managers should also be trained in enabling teachers to support each other with their wellbeing.”
Download the booklet at www.nottingham.ac.uk/education/documents/research/crsc/teacherresilience/beyondsurvival-teachersandresilience.pdf
Read the Teaching Agency guidance on non-cognitive assessment at www.education.gov.uk/schools/careers/traininganddevelopment/initial/