Teaching is among the 'top three most stressed occupations'

Kaye Wiggins

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Teaching is consistently among the top three most stressful professions, according to a respected academic who has studied well-being in 80 occupations.

Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester's business school and a former government adviser on well-being, told TES that the profession regularly ranked among the most stressful jobs.

“Of all the occupations I’ve studied, and that’s about 80, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations,” he said. “The hours are long and antisocial, the workload is heavy and there is change for change’s sake from various governments.”   

His comments came as the country's biggest provider of new teachers, Teach First, revealed that it had started offering trainees psychological support because of concerns that classroom pressures could trigger mental health problems. 

Other high-stress professions identifed by Sir Cary included healthcare and the uniformed services such as the police, ambulance and the fire services. He added that some parts of the IT industry were also high-stress. Librarians, gardeners and lab biologists tended to be among the least stressed professionals.

Sir Cary has published well over 100 pieces of research on workplace well-being and stress, during a 30-year career in academia. He is the outgoing chair of the Academy of Social Sciences and president of the counselling charity Relate.  

He said anxiety, stress and depression were leading causes of sickness absence across many occupations, and in teaching these problems were “endemic”.

Sir Cary said constant changes in education policy added to teachers’ stress levels, and he urged the government to take a “hands-free” approach to education.

The government should treat schools in the same way that former chancellor Gordon Brown treated the Bank of England in 1997, by granting it independence from political control, he said. 

To read the full story on Teach First's concerns about the risk of mental health problems among its trainees see the 26 June issue of TES. You can read it 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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Kaye Wiggins

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