Is everything groovy, baby

7th September 2007 at 01:00
It was the year that Marilyn Monroe was found dead, an unknown band called The Beatles was playing the clubs of Hamburg, and the Cuban missile crisis was sparking fears of a nuclear war.

In England, teachers were telling researchers how they felt about their work. Back in 1962, the most common grumble was about money, closely followed by working relationships, buildings and equipment, and the teaching load.

But teachers were largely happy: rating their job 4.3 on a five-point scale between "most unsatisfying" and "fully satisfying". Forty-five years later, researchers asked the same questions and the answers paint a fascinating picture of how the profession has developed.

Morale remains high, with job satisfaction dropping slightly to 3.9 the upper reaches of "moderately satisfying" on the five-point scale.

Pay is now the least of teachers' worries. The thing that makes 21st-century teachers most dissatisfied is not having enough time, with pupil behaviour and attitudes also very important and this list is identical for both sexes. Unlike in 1962.

Men complained more in the Sixties (especially those in junior schools), grumbling about salaries, human relations and the status of the profession.

Women, meanwhile, were more concerned with "day-to-day classroom problems" large classes, school buildings, equipment and the teaching load.

Teachers were in short supply 45 years ago. More pupils were staying on post 15 (the leaving age wasn't raised to 16 until 1972) and the number of comprehensive schools was booming.

In 1962, the pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools was 19.7, compared with the latest government figure of 17.2. Teachers' pay ranged from pound;570 to pound;1,170 compared with today's starting salary of pound;20,133 in England (outside London) and Wales and pound;19,878 in Scotland.

So if the money's better and the classes are smaller, why aren't today's teachers even happier? In short, they feel that they are being asked to do too much in too little time. Today male and female teachers have the same three gripes: time constraints, pupils' behaviour and their attitudes.

There is virtually no relationship between the rank order of sources of job dissatisfaction for teachers in 1962 and 2007 but, as the new research says, there are no easy fixes for today's concerns. The only common factor in the top five grumbles is teaching load, which has remained a constant in fourth place. Forty-five years ago, not having enough time to do the job properly barely made it into the top 10 complaints for men. Women ranked it fifth. Pupil behaviour and attitudes were way down the list.

What do today's teachers think would improve their job satisfaction? The answers seem surprisingly achievable. The number one priority is more time for preparation and collaboration with colleagues "to share ideas or just cheer each other along".

The second is more funding for items such as professional development. The third is more support from management to tackle poor pupil behaviour.

What has changed over the years? Professor Rob Klassen, Canadian academic and co-author of the new research, has spent quite a lot of time wondering about it. "Teachers really feel they are pressed for time. The job in some ways is very much the same, but clearly teachers are persuaded that it has changed as regards to how much is asked of them.

"I was thinking of that this morning... have the teachers changed, or has the job changed, or have the pupils changed, or is it all three?"

Inclusion, though supported by teachers, may create time pressure, he thinks, as may the extra paperwork caused by the national curriculum (not even a twinkle in Kenneth Baker's eye in 1962) and more assessment.

But, as Professor Klassen points out supported by recent findings that teaching has risen from 54th to 11th in the job satisfaction rankings of 81 UK professions teachers are much more happier in their work than many other professions.

"Teachers are generally satisfied with their jobs. Teaching is inherently satisfying with a lot of joy and pleasure found working with children and helping them learn. But it is maybe one of the more demanding or stressful jobs to do." In another interesting twist, some of the intervening changes in teacher attitude were picked by Colin Anderson, an educational psychologist and co-author of the research, who did a similar study at Glasgow University in 1971.

Then, he found the greatest cause of teacher dissatisfaction was working relations with other staff, followed by administration and policy. Pupil behaviour was mentioned by just 9 per cent of the teachers he surveyed.

Colin met Professor Klassen when working in Australia, and when Colin talked about this 1971 research and the 1962 paper he had worked on, the pair thought it would be fascinating to find out how things had changed over a 45-year period.

Colin is less surprised about the most recent changes they found in teacher attitude. He is cautious about ascribing teachers' stresses to actual changes in pupil behaviour, but says this perception is very widely held. He also thinks the profession can make the changes it wants. "If people in schools get together and work collaboratively, they can address these kinds of issues to do with their satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It's up to schools, really. I would say they have to sort this out."

In 1962, teachers grumbled about low pay and poor relationships, but they were happy mostly. But how will a survey of teachers conducted today compare with the attitudes of the swinging Sixties? Susan Young finds out

Women's top five worries in 1962

1 Large classes

2 Buildings and equipment

3 Teaching load

4 Teacher training

5 More time needed

And men's

1 Salary

2 Poor human relations

3 Buildings and equipment

4 Teaching load

5 Teacher training

What made teachers dissatisfied in 1962...

1 Salary

2 Poor human relations

3 Buildings and equipment

4 Teaching load

5 Teacher training

6. Large classes

7 Feelings of inadequacy

8 More time needed

9 Status of the profession

10 Rigid organisation

11 Poor teaching skills

12 Pupils' attitudes

13 Poor relations with parents

14 Pupil behaviour

15 Interruptions to lessons

And now

1 More time needed

2 Pupil behaviour

3 Pupil attitudes

4 Teaching load

5 Large classes

6 Buildings and equipment

7 Status of the profession

8 In Susan Young terruptions to lessons

9 Noise

10 Salary

11 Rigid organisations

12 Feelings of inadequacy

13 Teacher training

14 Poor teaching skills

15 Poor staff relations

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