Dr Jermaine Ravalier, who is co-lead of the Psychological Research Group at Bath Spa will present his findings on stress among UK teachers at a conference in Brighton today. Teachers in England reported higher job demands, worse relationships and higher perceived stress levels than Scottish teachers. Scottish teachers reported higher levels of organisational change. In the Times Education Summary preview, this was presented as somehow clearly negative and the report was headlined as:
‘40 per cent of Scottish teachers consider leaving their jobs in next 18 months’
I haven’t been able to access the research report to assess the quality of its methods and thus the value of its findings. However, here are two key parts of the methods which were made clear:
- The EIS teaching union helped share the researchers’ survey;
- It attracted nearly 5 000 responses.
So, first, this research was promoted by a trades union with no interest in research validity or reliability but rather interested in pursuing higher wages and better conditions. I applaud those intentions but they are likely to skew research findings toward the negative. Ask most professions if they’d like more money, less stress or better conditions and if they’d like to leave for an easier life and what do you expect to find?
Second, the research ‘attracted’ 5 000 responses. This means that the respondents were a self-selecting sample and not a scientifically randomised sample. Self-selecting samples are not likely to be representative of the population as-a-whole but rather to have attracted almost entirely those with negative perceptions. This point is further reinforced by the fact that only 5 000 of Scotland’s 50 970 teachers (10%) bothered to respond to what was presumably an easily-completed, online, tick-box exercise taking only minutes to complete.
Returning to the TES headline above, the 10% response rate should make the headline:
‘4 per cent of Scottish teachers consider leaving their jobs in next 18 months’
If I get a chance to see the research methodology in full, I’ll make further comment.