Further education staff and prison educators suffer above-average stress

8 December 2008 | last updated: 18 April 2016

A survey of 3,000 further education staff has found their stress levels exceed the averages for British workers on seven key measures.

The survey, carried out by UCU, and reported in 'Tackling stress in further education', used the methodology of a survey devised by the Health and Safety Executive which analyses stress among the general working population (including those in education).

Workers in further education reported lower levels of well-being in all seven areas in comparison to the national population.

The results of the UCU survey showed workers in further education reported lower levels of well-being, which equated to more stress, in all seven areas in comparison to the national population. The areas with the most marked differences for FE workers included: how change was handled at work; the demands made upon them; and their understanding of their role at work.
 
In addition, 87% of respondents reported 'sometimes', 'often' or 'always' experiencing levels of stress at work that they found unacceptable. Nearly four-fifths of respondents (79.8%) 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' with the statement: 'I find my job stressful'. More than half (55%) reported 'high' or 'very high' general levels of stress.
 
Among suggested measures to improve working lives were: improved physical environment; greater autonomy; better management of change; less paperwork and monitoring; bullying and harassment to be tackled; more flexible working; a reduction in contact hours; and pay equivalent to schoolteachers'.

Respondents working in prison education showed even higher levels of stress than FE workers for all seven key measures.Results for respondents working in prison education, published separately in 'Tackling stress in prison education', showed even higher levels of stress than FE workers for all seven key measures, compared to the national averages. The areas with the biggest discrepancies included: how change was handled at work; managerial support; and relationships at work.
 
Of those teaching in prisons, 82.8% reported 'sometimes', 'often' or 'always' experiencing levels of stress at work that they found unacceptable. Four-fifths of respondents (80.8%) 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' with the statement, 'I find my job stressful'. Nearly two-thirds (62.1%) reported 'high' or 'very high' general levels of stress.
 
Among suggested solutions for improvement were: more involvement in decision-making; better management of change; permanent contracts; improved working facilities; more support from line managers; and pay equivalent to schoolteachers'.
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Our members in further education have worked in an environment of continual change where there is barely time to consolidate one new policy before the next comes along. This survey clearly shows this is the root cause of a great deal of stress.
 
'The economic downturn looks set to herald more change as further education will be at the heart of responses to increasing levels of unemployment. UCU members will need to be more flexible and committed than ever. This survey suggests some practical and simple solutions which would greatly improve working lives and so help FE rise to the challenge of recession. We call on those in charge to act on its findings.
 
'Our members working in prisons are right at the bottom of the pile yet they do a vital job to keep society safe by reducing reoffending. It is no surprise that they cite the management of change as a major source of stress: constant retendering of prison education contracts has meant as many as five changes of management in the past 15 years for some of our members. Prison educators desperately need stability.'

Copies of the two reports, 'Tackling stress in further education' and 'Tackling stress in prison education' are available below, or in hard copy from the UCU press office.

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