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‘Unrealistic expectations’ heap stress on teachers, says bishop

Bishop of London says teachers' passion for education 'can come at a cost'

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Bishop of London says teachers' passion for education 'can come at a cost'

Teachers develop “excessive stress levels” partly because of “unrealistic expectations” placed on them by others, a senior Church of England bishop has said.

The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally, said that teachers' passion “to make a difference” could “come at a cost”.

She was speaking at the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference in London this morning.

Another senior member of the clergy, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, told the conference that politicians should not treat education as an “experiment” after each general election.

Bishop Mullally told attendees at the conference: “What brought you into education and keeps you there is your passion often to make a difference but that can come at a cost.”

She cited last year’s teacher wellbeing index, which showed that most educational professionals describe themselves as stressed, 29 per cent of teachers work more than 51 hours a week on average, and more than half of teachers have considered leaving the sector over the past two years as a result of health pressures.

She said: “Although some degree of stress can be considered motivational and helpful, those in education are particularly vulnerable to accumulating excessive stress levels because of the nature of their job, which includes multiple roles and responsibilities - and sometimes unrealistic expectations of others.”

“Over time, if the pressures do not ease or changes are not made then there is an increased risk of experiencing stress-related symptoms which may develop into physical illness and/or eventually burn-out.”

Bishop Mullally said teachers could alleviate stress by reflecting on what they most enjoyed about their work, accessing support and taking time to “invest in things you know will lighten your mood”.

The conference also heard from Reverend Hudson-Wilkin, the chaplain of the House of Commons and a chaplain to the Queen.

She criticised an obsession with schools “being at the top of some artificially set table”, and suggested education was challenged by “inadequate funding” and “too few teachers”.

Reverend Hudson-Wilkin also had a message to politicians tinkering with the education system.

“The education of our children… is far too precious and should not be a political football kicked around by all and sundry; neither should it be used as an experiment by political parties every time there is an election,” she said.

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