The wellbeing of teachers and support staff in the UK has never been more important. Not only are educators fleeing the profession in record numbers but there has been a significant drop in young people choosing teaching as a career. This will come as no shock to those in the profession, who cite increased workload, pressure from Ofsted inspections, and unreasonable demands from senior leaders as contributing factors towards low morale and wellbeing.
Does Ofsted consider staff wellbeing during inspection?
Having been slow to the table, Ofsted now considers staff wellbeing as part of the Education Inspection Framework (EIF). This requires measures to protect staff from bullying and harassment, and looks at how leaders develop staff, while taking their workload and wellbeing into account. This needs to be evidenced through training, school policy, and clear staff engagement.
In 2021, the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter was drawn up, authored by the Association of Colleges, schools, the DFE, and Ofsted, the charter emphasises continuing professional development, clear communication, workload reduction, and the wellbeing of all staff. The charter is entirely voluntary – 10% of education providers have signed up so far.
While many would argue these measures do not go far enough, the trajectory is clear: Ofsted is beginning to take staff wellbeing more seriously. As such, we would expect further measures to be taken in the near future, with additional wellbeing criteria outlined in the EIF.
Regardless of how and when Ofsted implements new measures, the wellbeing of all staff members should remain a priority for every educational organisation. A focus on wellbeing not only has a positive effect on staff retention levels, but on learners too – outstanding outcomes can only be achieved if staff feel healthy, driven, and valued.
Staff wellbeing: the current landscape
According to the latest Ofsted figures, 20% of new teachers leave the profession within the first 2 years, while 33% leave within the first 5 years. A 2023 National Education Union (NEU) survey paints a similar picture: 41% of teachers in England and Wales say they plan to leave teaching within the next 5 years.
The survey shows a workforce under pressure: more than a third of teachers say they feel stressed 80% of the time, two-thirds say they feel this way more then 60% of the time, and almost half of support staff say they feel stressed more than 60% of the time.
Stress levels can, in part, be attributed to staff shortages. In a 2022 Association of Colleges (AoC) survey, 96% of respondents said that shortages were creating increased pressure on existing staff. This is unsurprising, given the additional workload required to fill the gaps.
In fact, an unmanageable workload is frequently cited as a major contributor towards poor wellbeing. Teachers responding to the NEU survey said that marking, learner progress reports, lesson planning, emails, meetings, form filling, and Ofsted preparation form part of an excessive workload leading to poor wellbeing.
The impact of Ofsted inspections on wellbeing
A 2019 Ofsted report (schools and FES) on the wellbeing of education staff found that Ofsted inspections greatly add to stress and workload. This includes completing ‘tick-box’ tasks devised by senior leadership in the run up to inspection.
Educators cited working long hours due to an excessive ‘evidence’ culture, with the need to create data on progress for governors and Ofsted. They described a shift in focus from student needs towards an emphasis on test outcomes.
The outcome of Ofsted evaluation can further compound feelings of stress and poor wellbeing. Teachers from schools deemed ‘inadequate’ and ‘requiring improvement’ report significantly lower wellbeing than those from schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
How leadership impacts staff wellbeing
The Ofsted report found that leadership and collaboration in schools was often lacking. Only 47% of teachers and teaching assistants reported that their colleagues (including line managers) often or always help them during periods of excessive workload.
In further education, just over half (57%) of FES teachers and teaching assistants said that their line manager frequently gives praise and recognition, while only 36% said their line manager often or always supports them with their wellbeing.
The report found uneven support in schools – 17% of school staff do not receive training relevant to their job, 31% do not discuss training needs with their line manager, and 13% do not discuss progress or performance with a colleague.
Digital tools for staff retention and wellbeing
While technological solutions are not a magic bullet, they can certainly go some way towards streamlining operations, whether through automating administrative tasks or providing a better model of performance management. When used widely by staff and senior leaders, the right digital solution can help improve staff retention and increase levels of wellbeing.
Implementing continuous performance management (CPM) moves senior leaders away from an outdated ‘yearly appraisal’ model towards a system of continual feedback and praise. Feedback happens in real time, allowing for truthful evaluation, and the feeling of a job well done.
CPM software, such as Advanced’s Performance and Talent solution, allows the user to set clear goals and objectives, giving staff members targets to work towards. These can be set individually or collaboratively and are designed to improve motivation and provide a sense of accomplishment. These objectives can be reworked as the school year evolves and can be set to align with the values of the school.
The software encourages feedback throughout the entire organisation, whether from support staff, teachers, or senior leaders. This offers a ‘voice’ to staff members who may be reluctant to speak out, whilst giving the user an overview of common problems and concerns. It also means that any staff member can give praise and encouragement to any other, ensuring everyone gets recognition for good work.