Creating the Conditions for Ambitious, Excellent Schools
This research was submitted to the Scottish Executive by by Teacher Support Scotland in March 2005. Central to this submission was the evidence provided by the Healthy Working Lives Group (HWLG) of the University of Glasgow in their research into the wellbeing of teachers in Scotland. This research, commissioned by Teacher Support Scotland and NHS Health Scotland, is the most comprehensive study into the wellbeing of teachers ever carried out.
Creating the Conditions for Ambitious Excellent Schools
If all of Scotland’s schools are to be ambitious and excellent, then everyone working in them has to be ambitious and excellent too, and the conditions which allow this to happen have to be present: this is a key element of support for learning. One of these conditions is the physical and emotional wellbeing of everyone working in schools, especially teachers. The evidence presented in this submission will show that the wellbeing of the Scottish teaching force is a cause for concern, and the provision of support inadequate. This situation hampers progress and represents a real and significant barrier to achieving ambitious, excellent schools.
The prevailing view among teachers in Scotland is that the pressures they experience on a daily basis are unique and excessive and that available support is inadequate. They believe that these pressures are not recognised and understood, or that they are ignored. Teachers consider occupational health policies and management practices to be unsupportive, particularly in respect of absence policies which are generally regarded as punitive. These perceptions are widely held and detrimental to individual and organisational effectiveness. The generally held view among employers is that the pressures teachers face are not unique or excessive, and that adequate support is available.
Long-standing assumptions exist on both sides which remain unchallenged. While these positions remain unreconciled, the conditions necessary for the attainment of ambitious, excellent schools cannot be fully in place and the effectiveness of Scottish education is impaired. The situation is exacerbated by the tendency to misunderstand and over-simplify what is a complex issue, and to consider employee wellbeing to be a purely a health, personnel or welfare matter.
Research conducted by the Healthy Working Lives Group (HWLG) at the University of Glasgow has helped to establish the actual position in Scotland by mapping the context and support which is currently offered to teachers in Scotland, surveying teachers themselves about their health needs and the support they would like to see provided to them. The study also looked at interventions from around the world which might be effective in addressing teachers’ health and well-being needs. When the HWLG study is supplemented by other research and practical examples of interventions, a more objective assessment can be made of the position of teachers in Scotland and the nature and the efficacy of support available to them.
This submission will provide a clear picture of the state of the wellbeing of teachers in Scotland: it will explain the relationship between the wellbeing of teachers and their effectiveness, and the importance of ‘managing for wellbeing’ schools. Some specific proposals designed to improve wellbeing in Scottish schools in the short and long term will be presented to the Executive as a result of this submission. We believe that these proposals support the Executive’s agenda for action.