Revealed: How teaching became the hardest profession

25-year study shows ‘intensity’ of the job is now at ‘unprecedented levels’ with 85% of teachers coming home ‘exhausted’

Teacher wellbeing: The rising stress levels of teachers have been revealed in new UCL research

The proportion of teachers saying that their job demands are “very high” rose by two-thirds in 20 years from 54 per cent to 90 per cent, according to research published today.

The finding from the UCL Institute of Education covers 1997-2017 and shows "rising intensity" in the profession, as well as a fall in the number of teachers believing that they could influence their job. There has also been an increase in “work strain”.

The 90 per cent figure compares with just 44 per cent of people in all other occupations who said they worked “very hard” – with only health and social services managers and legal professionals coming close to the levels of work intensity faced by teachers.


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The study, by Francis Green, also finds that the proportion of teachers who said they were coming home from work “exhausted” has risen over 20 years from 72 per cent in 1997 to 85 per cent in 2017.

Fears over teacher workload

Professor Green said: “Compared with other professionals and all other occupations, teachers work more intensively, and this has risen to unprecedented levels.

“Any improvement in teachers’ job quality achieved in a post-Covid-19 environment should be beneficial. Not only for teachers, but also for schools and the pupils who depend so much on the quality of teaching.”

The study, which goes back to 1992 on some findings, also reports that:

  • High work strain has increased from virtually no reports in 1992 to 27 per cent of teachers saying this was an issue in 2017.
  • The proportion of teachers who said they had “a great deal of influence” over how they perform tasks fell from 48 per cent in 2012 to 31 per cent in 2017.
  • 58 per cent of teachers said they had to work “at very high speed” in 2017, compared with 16 per cent in 1992.
  • The proportion who said their job demands were at a “very high level” rose from 54 per cent to 90 per cent between 1992 and 2017.
  • An increasing percentage of teachers said they often or always came home from work exhausted (72 per cent in 1997 compared with 85 per cent in 2017). This compared with an increase from 44 per cent to 45 per cent for all other professionals over the same period.
  • Participation in training reduced  from 92 per cent in 2006 to 86 per cent in 2017.

By contrast, however, teachers reported greater satisfaction levels than other professionals about their promotion chances, which have increased notably, and about job security, which has remained high.

The research was based on Skills and Employment Survey (SES) series data from 1992 to 2017. A total of 857 teachers aged 20 to 60 and working in nursery, primary, secondary and special schools were asked about job quality and overall work satisfaction. The majority were female (72 per cent) and living in England (86 per cent), with a minority in the private sector (13 per cent).

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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