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A wake-up call over bosses’ wellbeing

College leaders may take home bigger pay packets than their teachers, but they also soak up huge pressure that can damage their mental health

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College leaders may take home bigger pay packets than their teachers, but they also soak up huge pressure that can damage their mental health

Teachers and educational professionals routinely clock up more unpaid overtime than almost any other profession, according to research published last year by the Trades Union Congress. The only job for which the figure was higher, the researchers found, was CEOs. Does that make college CEOs the most under-pressure of all? It’s certainly a role which, while well remunerated, brings immense burdens.

This was made painfully clear by Matt Hamnett, who chose to write for Tes about the reasons why, just days after North Hertfordshire College was rated “good” by Ofsted, he made the decision to quit the job he loves. He explained the impact that the all-consuming CEO role was having on his private life (bit.ly/CEOpressure).

His heartfelt account has attracted a huge amount of interest on social media – not least from other principals and CEOs welcoming the fact that this issue has been brought into the public domain at last.

Spotlight on mental health

Following the positive work on the mental health of students, led by Ian Ashman during his time as president of the Association of Colleges, it is to be welcomed that the wellbeing of FE staff is coming under the spotlight.

In December, the Education and Training Foundation’s David Russell made the point that the “hero” model of teaching, reliant on professionals giving up their evenings and weekends simply to keep their heads above water, was not “a sustainable one”. Policymakers, he wrote, should not be allowed to believe that they can “squeeze more and more out of the existing workforce by asking teachers’ home lives to take the strain” (bit.ly/HeroTeach).

College leaders may take home far higher salaries than teachers, but they should also be entitled to a life. The case is made more strongly when staff of all ranks speak with a single voice, as eloquently expressed by Ali Hadawi. Stress isn’t an issue exclusive to either teachers or managers. It’s important that those in the Department for Education are made aware of the impact their policies have on staff – and their families.

@stephenexley

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