Rapid change is cause of stress

Lecturers' and managers' wellbeing affected by pace of progress

Joseph Lee

The pace of change in further education has been identified as the biggest source of stress in the workplace, according to staff.

A survey of more than 1,000 lecturers, managers and support staff in FE found that the biggest gap between their reported stress levels and expected figures for the general UK workforce was in coping with change.

Staff in the University and College Union rated 33 per cent lower on an index of reported wellbeing in issues related to change in their workplace, compared with the Health and Safety Executive's survey of all workers.

Staff said they had little opportunity to discuss planned changes with their managers, while managers said they suffered from lack of planning and reactive leadership at the top.

"I never get to do anything really well because as soon you feel you are making progress, they move the goalposts, change everything," one lecturer said. "I feel I never get to consistently improve my teaching."

With staff dealing with issues from multiple college mergers to the complete overhaul of the funding system in further education, they called for managers and senior managers to spend more time listening to staff and on the "shop floor".

Teaching staff wanted a real input into decision-making, while middle managers wanted more autonomy from senior management and an end to constant monitoring.

Middle managers said principals and senior staff should be identifying ways to ease the workload of staff, as well as improving the college's performance.

A shared theme among lecturers and managers was that there should be less protection for those who were ineffective in their job and who created more work for others as a result.

But staff generally worked well together, with the demands of the job being rated as a far higher source of stress than relationships with colleagues, and most believed they were getting support and respect.

The union itself was not exempt from criticism in the survey, with some respondents saying their stress levels would fall if there was "more encouragement from UCU for less moaning in the staffroom."

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Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee is an award-winning freelance education journalist 

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