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Teachers told: set your own goals, be happy

Teachers who want to be happy should stop trying to please everyone and have a greater say in setting their own targets, a new survey has revealed.

A study by the University of Kent, in association with Teacher Support Network, showed that teachers with career aspirations and a goal for their own learning were happier than those facing unrealistic expectations imposed from "on high".

"Most teachers only suffered from burn-out if they were highly stressed," said Julian Childs of the University of Kent, who carried out the Wellbeing and Stress at Work study. "Yet teachers who thought other people wanted them to be perfect had high burn-out and low well-being, whether they were highly stressed or not."

Teachers who set high performance standards for themselves, in contrast, had higher levels of well-being.

Similarly, teachers with a goal to advance their professional development had higher levels of mental energy and were more invested in their work than those who were focused on outperforming others.

Yet the study of 197 teachers, interviewed twice over three months, says teachers should set these standards themselves rather than have them imposed by colleagues or managers.

Teachers who felt that others demanded more than they could deliver had higher levels of stress, stress-related ill-health and burn-out, as well as lower levels of well-being.

Julian Stanley, chief executive of Teacher Support Network, said: "Teachers must be fully supported and developed throughout their careers, but crucially not overworked."

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