Institute of Education


School staff more satisfied with their jobs than employees in other workplaces, study reveals

28 March 2018

School employees in the UK are more committed to their organisations than employees of organisations elsewhere in the economy, according to a new study by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and NIESR.

Teacher helping student in class. Image: Kirsten Holst for UCL

The study, presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference at the University of Sussex in Brighton today (28 March 2018), analyses data collected in the Workplace Employment Relations Surveys for 2004 and 2011. It finds that school staff are more satisfied and more content with their jobs than comparable employees in other workplaces, a difference that is accounted for in large part by the perception of higher job quality in schools.

In particular, non-pecuniary job quality is better in schools than in other workplaces, explaining differences in job satisfaction and contentment in schools compared with elsewhere.

These findings contrast with previous research that highlights greater job-related anxiety and stress and lower job satisfaction for school staff than other workers. The authors replicate these earlier results by controlling for a limited set of factors related to worker wellbeing.

But the data sets used in this analysis are particularly rich, making it possible to control for a wider range of potential factors confounding the relationship between working in schools and employee satisfaction and contentment. When controlling for this wider set of factors, the association between working in a school and lower job satisfaction is no longer evident.

The researchers also find that the difference in staff commitment remains large and significant even when having controlled for job quality, management practices, managerial style and other aspects of employees' working environment.

Furthermore, increases in organisational commitment among school employees over time are linked to improvements in schools' financial performance, labour productivity and quality of service.

The report states: "There is a common perception that school environments lead to early burnout, a proposition which appears consistent with the observation that a very high percentage of teachers quit the profession early in their careers. However, few studies compare the job attitudes of teachers, or school staff more broadly, with non-school staff. It is therefore difficult to know whether school-based employees' wellbeing and commitment is better or worse than that faced by employees elsewhere.

"We had hypothesised that those working in schools would experience poorer job quality than other employees, and that this might partly account for differentials in job satisfaction and job contentment. Instead, we found positive job satisfaction and job contentment differentials in schools relative to non-schools which partly reflected better non-pecuniary job quality in schools compared to elsewhere."

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Henry Killworth, UCL Media Relations
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