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Stress busting? – Headmaster’s Blog – Tuesday 7 November 2017

November 7, 2017
Ballard Stress busting blog

Stress busting?

Teaching and stress in the news

This past week the educational Press has been full of the recent research into Teaching and the stress that many in the profession face. The Times Educational Supplement reports:

Teaching is among the most stressful jobs you can do in Britain, according to new health and safety statistics. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that in the teaching profession there were 2,460 cases of work-related stress per 100,000 workers.

This was twice the average rate across all industries of 1,230 cases per 100,000 workers in the three-year period averaged over 2014-15 to 2016-17.

“Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education, human health and social care work activities and public administration and defence,” the report states.

It added that previous surveys had found the predominant cause of stress was workload – in particular, tight deadlines. Other causes were too much pressure or responsibility, a lack of managerial support, organisational changes, violence and role uncertainty.

“Work-related stress, depression or anxiety continues to represent a significant ill health condition in the workforce of Great Britain,” the report concludes. A recent DfE report on teachers’ decisions to leave teaching found workload was the single most common reason – cited by 75 per cent of ex-teachers as the reason they quit the profession. Changes in policy were the second biggest cause.

Our headmaster reflects on the reports

I have to say that in my 38 years of teaching, I have indeed come across several colleagues who have had time off for stress or who have ‘battled on’ despite being under tremendous pressure. I believe that these instances are increasing and thus they align with this research. A few years ago I went through a particularly stressful period as a Head – brought on, I feel, by a combination of ‘issues’ to do with school parents and their high expectations (unrealistic in some cases) together with a number of tricky staffing concerns. This experience led me to consider, along with some medical intervention, stress-busting / minimising approaches.

Techniques to beat stress

I hasten to add that a degree of stress is, of course, healthy and like most things in life we are looking to reach a balance. My approach of late is not revolutionary but, I believe, has helped me manage the inevitable pressures that come with my job and also with teaching in general.

  • I have stopped checking work emails after 9.00 pm, for example, and, indeed, avoid the computer for any reason after this time at night. (My wife is a very good partner in reminding me about this should I be otherwise tempted!)
  • I try to get to bed before 10.00pm rather than waiting to watch the News first before retiring for the night.
  • In my workplace I am now more inclined to look for opportunities to delegate work and, yes, to trust others to do things better than me! Even if in my view they don’t manage this, it is their learning experience that’s important.
  • In addition to this, I have very consciously tried not to dwell on imaginary conversations ahead of ‘difficult meetings’: it’s fine to plan for these and consider scenarios but as I walk home of an evening (and this woodland walk is a privilege to savour), I very consciously try to leave them behind recognising that there’s nothing further I can do until the next day – or after the weekend.

Look for the ‘little extras’

We will all have things which suit us personally and fit with our lifestyles to reduce stress further (and for me this includes prayer and Christian fellowship – as well as time with my wife and family). It’s tremendously important, however, to look for those ‘little extras’ which we can do when the going gets too tough. This may mean a conversation with your GP but will also involve wise advice from those who know us best along with, perhaps, the tips above over online habits and self-control with our endless ‘what if’ thoughts. As someone has pointed out, 90+% of the things we worry about never happen – and so why worry in the first place?

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

A teaching colleague, Alex Bellars, and I are doing the Movember moustache challenge for men’s mental health charities. If you’d like to donate at all then do visit my Movember Foundation page, Many thanks

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 7, 2017 2:39 pm

    Love this blog Alastair. Wise words. Very topical as Vic has me reading ‘The Power of Now’ at the moment! 🧐

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