Unhappy? No we still enjoy the job

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Teachers complain about heavier workloads and the lack of government support - but only a minority are really disgruntled. Jon Slater reports.

After more than a decade of upheaval and in the midst of a recruitment crisis, teachers could be forgiven for feeling pessimistic about their profession. But despite pressure from politicians and in contrast to the picture painted by union leaders most teachers are happy in their jobs.

An exclusive poll carried out for The TES by FDS International found that two-thirds of teachers are satisfied with the job they do. More than half of teachers in both state and independent schools are optimistic about their professional future.

However, not all teachers take such a rosy view. A sizeable minority (21 per cent) say they are unhappy in their work and teachers in state schools are three times as likely to be dissatisfied as their counterparts in the independent sector. Teachers in the independent sector are also more likely to be optimistic about the future.

One reason for this optimism among teachers could be that most believe that funding for their school has increased since 1997, although worryingly for the Government, almost one in six teachers in state schools feels that funding has fallen.

Despite teachers' general satisfaction, they support the complaints of their union leaders about increased workload, bureaucracy and lack of government support.

Nearly 90 per cent of teachers told pollsters that their job has become more pressured since 1997, while just one in a hundred said that work has become easier. Many teachers remain convinced that ministers have failed to provide the additional help they promised to offset that pressure. Fewer than one in three believes that support for schools and teachers, which Tony Blair promised to provide on becoming Prime Minister, has increased.

And despite the millions of pounds spent onadvertising campaigns and televised teaching "Oscars", more than nine in 10 teachers say that the profession's status has not improved in the eyes of the public.

The increased pressure and lack of status helps to explain why fewer than half would recommend teaching as a career to their son or daughter. Perhaps surprisingly, given that primary teachers are traditionally easier to recruit, secondary teachers would make better advocates for the profession. Almost half would recommend teaching to their own children compared to just one third of primary teachers.

They might be more likely to act as advocates of the profession if ministers followed their advice on how to improve working conditions. Teachers were asked by pollsters to rate a number of suggested improvements according to how helpful they would be in supporting their work. Three measures were rated by more than one in five teachers as being very helpful: less regulation and paperwork; more non-contact time; and smaller classes. For each of these suggestions, around a quarter of teachers said that they would be the most helpful improvement. Most teachers now believe that Office for Standards in Education inspections, so long the bug-bear of the teaching profession, play an important role in schools. Only a third of teachers agreed that OFSTED "has a damaging effect on teachers and should be scrapped".

However, this does not mean that teachers are happy with the inspection system in its current form. Nearly two-thirds of teachers said that although OFSTED has an important role it should be reformed - a view held particularly strongly by heads and deputies. By contrast, only 3 per cent of teachers said that inspectors do a good job and should be left to get on with it.

Teacher 2001 was carried out by FDS International for The TES. The findings are based on 501 telephone interviews carried out between December 5-8

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