Teachers and teaching assistants are more content in their jobs – and no more stressed – than workers in other professions, according to a new study by the UCL Institute of Education.
The study's findings appear to be in sharp contrast to the widely reported pressures on teachers and school leaders as a result of excessive workloads and long hours, which are resulting in many teachers voting with their feet and leaving the profession.
Are Schools Different? Wellbeing and Commitment Among Staff in Schools and Elsewhere compared school employees with professionals from private-sector firms and other public sector organisations, using workplace surveys for 2004 and 2011.
The study looked at eight aspects of job satisfaction, including job-related anxiety, and assessed employees' "organisational commitment" by measuring their loyalty, whether they shared the values of their workplace and how much pride they took in their workplace.
Participants were also asked the degree of control they have in the job, the demands placed on them and the level of managerial support they receive.
The research found that teachers and teaching assistants are “no more stressed” about their work than colleagues in other workplaces, experienced “greater job contentment”, and expressed “greater job satisfaction.”
Non-teaching school staff, however, were on a par with other professionals in terms of job-related anxiety and satisfaction.
Teachers were found to be happier and less anxious than their non-teaching counterparts in a school.
However, school staff as a whole expressed higher levels of "organisational commitment" than employees working elsewhere.
School performance 'depends on staff commitment'
Crucially, a school's performance depends more on the level of employees' commitment than their satisfaction and contentment, the study finds.
Alex Bryson, professor of quantitive social science at the IoE, said teachers "perceive their jobs to be of higher quality than other workers'".
He added: "They perceive themselves to have more control over their working lives, so that helps them deal with the demands of their jobs.”
Professor Bryson said teachers' level of commitment was linked to a sense of mission often found in the public sector workforce. He said: “If you can foster that as a headteacher, then, according to this study, you will find improvements in school performance – and by that I mean labour productivity, the quality of service and financial performance."
He stressed that there are also “strong arguments” for schools and the government to invest in improvement in workers’ wellbeing, since it will affect issues such as teacher turnover.
The research was based on nationally representative surveys from 406 schools, 3,485 private sector workplaces and 1,084 public sector organisations.