Workload: ‘School leaders need to set their teachers a better example’

Teachers want heads to show them the way on work-life balance – but all too often leaders neglect their own wellbeing, according to new research

The finding comes from a major comparative study of school leaders in London, New York City and Toronto.

The UCL Institute of Education (IoE) research shows that class teachers expect leaders to be understanding about staff members’ lives beyond the school gates and to model a healthy work-life balance.

But in reality, the majority of schools leaders in the study struggled to achieve that balance, in spite of the fact that their example could have a positive influence on their teachers.

Karen Edge, from the IoE, who interviewed the participants in the study, fears that poor wellbeing habits among school leaders could be filtering down to teachers and putting future leaders off the profession.

‘Culture of self-sacrifice’

“If you are looking to move up the career ladder and you are seeing headteachers talking about only stress and challenge then it doesn’t make it an attractive choice. If you love your job you need to say it and say it loudly,” she said.

“If heads can’t find a way to have a life themselves then no one is going to want to step into that role. It will only become more difficult.”

The study shows that heads leading by personal example are “more influential than simple statements or encouragement”. And yet, many leaders find it hard to set a good example on work-life balance.

Dr Edge added: “There is a culture of busyness and self-sacrifice that is associated with running a school.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 20 May edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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