New research suggests good leadership is the major contributor to reducing education job strain | Education Support Partnership

New research suggests good leadership is the major contributor to reducing education job strain

11th February 2016

Charity launches formal consultation on recruitment and retention

At an event being held tonight in the Houses of Parliament, UK charity Education Support Partnership will launch a new formal consultation process designed to gather insights that will help fix the current recruitment and retention crisis. The consultation, opening tomorrow, will run until later in the academic year when Education Support will publish and submit the associated findings to Government.

The charity will also use the Westminster event to unveil initial findings of a new doctorate due for publication later this year.  Preliminary findings of this research suggest that whilst giving teachers sufficient control and autonomy is an important factor in reducing job strain, the effect is relatively small unless combined with leader and management support. In other words, good management is statistically significantly in reducing job strain in the education sector.

This finding applies not just to teaching staff, but to headteachers too, and makes clear the importance of the support that teachers receive from schools and about the support that headteachers receive from Governors, local education authorities and academy chains.

Co-funded by Education Support Partnership and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the research is being conducted by PhD student Candy Whittome of Birkbeck, University of London’s Department of Organizational Psychology and draws on lessons learned from fields of business and management organizational psychology.

The research explores data gathered from the charity’s Positive Workplace Survey[1], a service provided by Education Support Partnership to help schools better understand their working environments. This data reveals that job strain has, over the past 5 years, been the single most important factor causing teachers to access the Education Support Partnership 24-hour helpline. 

Researcher Candy Whittome explains “Although the results are not yet complete what I am starting to be able to evidence is the importance of supportive leadership in helping individuals and organizations cope with the increased responsibility the sector is faced with. In other words, as external pressures on the teachers increase, due to changes in Government policy such as testing and changes in curriculum, the need for those responsible for the running of schools to step up and show true leadership and support becomes ever more important.”

She continues “The preliminary findings I have identified to date are exciting, and I am looking forward to completing the work so that school leaders across the UK can start to put some of the recommendations in place.”

Once completed, the research findings will form the centrepiece to the Education Support Partnership’s new consultation process, assisting school leaders and managers to identify best practice to create the appropriate cultures for success, preventing some of the issues commonly experienced as a result of workload and responsibility imbalances that can lead to mental health issues and ultimately resignations.

Speaking about the research, Julian Stanley, CEO of the Education Support Partnership explains

“Education Support Partnership’s own YouGov Poll from June[2] of last year found that 24% of those surveyed felt that unreasonable demands from line managers would be to blame for their likely departure from education in the next 5 years.”

He continues “These figure shows how important the conclusion of this new research is – helping school leaders and managers to better understand and support their teaching staff to keep them happy, well and in their jobs for longer. This applies to all those responsible for teachers - headteachers, school governors, and the many different organisations charged with running schools; it is a wake-up call for those involved in constant policy changes in the education field – that less can definitely be more.”

Last year the Education Support Partnership services covered as many as 60,000 individuals working in the education sector. The charity supports individuals and organisations in schools, FE and HE settings, through contact on the charity’s 24-hour counselling helpline, through coaching and mentoring or the employee assistance programmes provided to schools and their staff.

Ideas and contributions to the consultation process are welcomed from all of those working in or with the sector – submissions can be made via email to or by tweeting using the hashtag #NotQuittingTeaching

Media are invited to attend the media briefing taking place in the Pavilion Terrace at the House of Parliament this evening, 12th January.  Arrive 6.30pm for 7.00pm start and contact or 07563 267907 in advance to arrange access.

Media can also contact Rachel for more media information about the Education Support Partnership’s consultation or to arrange an interview with Candy Whittome to discuss the research




The Education Support Partnership is a charity dedicated to school teachers and all staff in FE and HE. We provide support for the emotional health and wellbeing of education staff. This includes a 24/7 helpline, telephone counselling, coaching, money management, grants, information and signposting.

As the only charity talking to education staff specifically about the issues they face on a day-to-day basis, the press office can provide unique data, trends, cases studies and comment. To get support call: 08000 562 561 or visit

Birkbeck, University of London, is a world-class research and teaching institution, a vibrant centre of academic excellence and London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education. Ranked 30th in the UK for its research, 73% of Birkbeck’s research was rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Birkbeck also scored highly for its research environment and for the impact of its research beyond academia.


[1] Data was drawn from the last 5 years’ of the Education Support Partnership’s Positive Workplace Survey of over 15,000 primary school teachers and over 11,000 secondary school teachers across the UK.

[2] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 796 teaching professionals in England and Wales. The survey was carried out online in June 2015. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the England and wales school population.