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'Rapid' decline in staff well-being, poll finds

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Stress levels among further education staff have risen dramatically in the past two years, a survey published today reveals. Frequent institutional change and unacceptable working demands are being blamed for the shift.

The poll of 2,250 members of the University and College Union (UCU) finds that stressful working environments are taking their toll on staff in the FE sector, with many reporting high levels of psychological distress and exhaustion.

Some 62 per cent of respondents to the online survey say they often or always experience unacceptable levels of stress. This compares with 45 per cent in 2012. In 2008, the figure stood at just 40 per cent.

Among staff, 70 per cent agree or strongly agree that too many changes have been introduced in their institution, with 90 per cent agreeing that a period of stability is needed in the sector. 

Organisational change, and how it was managed and commu-nicated, was responsible for the biggest rise in anxiety levels between the 2012 and 2014 surveys.

One respondent says: “A great deal of the stress derives from a failure by college management to explain, discuss or listen to alternatives when it comes to organisational change. Genuine consultation would make an enormous difference, instead of the automatic assumption that college management is always right.”

The next most stressful aspect of life in FE is the demands of the job, including work intensity, deadlines and time pressure, the survey finds.

And the growing pressures are having a significant impact on staff well-being: in a rating of psychological distress, 69 per cent of respondents score 4 or above – the level at which intervention is judged to be required to improve psychological health. Almost 90 per cent say they feel worn out at the end of their working day. 

For more on this and other FE stories, get the 8 May edition of TES on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents. 

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