Students are the main focus of schools. Their achievements, happiness and development tend to be at the core of any conversation but as a result, we’re overlooking something incredibly important: the teachers.
Schools are a place for education but we often forget that they’re a workplace too and, in doing so, bypass any consideration for the wellbeing of the teachers. “Teaching is still the best job in the world – it’s just tough,” says Amanda Martin, president of the NEU teaching union.
Today’s teachers face many strains, from an increasingly results-focused environment to ever-growing workloads to more varied responsibilities. In fact, research from the UCL Institute of Education uncovered that one in four teachers in England work over 60 hours a week and that it’s standard for teachers to work in the evening. In addition, around one in ten works weekends too. While long hours are undoubtedly a source of stress that negatively impacts wellbeing, one perhaps unexpected issue that crops up repeatedly is the loss of the staff room.
An article on TES states that “bright, shiny, new” school buildings do not include staffroom areas, while in other schools staffrooms are being turned into classrooms to deal with rising student numbers.
Not only do teachers need their own space to relax, chat and eat, but having a dedicated space in which they can “share ideas and professional dialogue” is a “key way to improve learning, teaching and pupil outcomes”. It is the space, according to education journalist Emma Seith, where teachers learn “the tricks of the trade”.
In fact, in many professional settings, people are asking for more private space at work. In one study of office workers it was found that workplace environments that are mostly open – but provide ample on-demand private space – have both the highest effectiveness and the highest experience scores.
In response to disappearing staff rooms, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association unanimously backed a motion calling on local authorities “to ensure all schools have appropriate facilities (e.g. staffrooms, staff bases, toilets etc) to support the wellbeing of teachers.”
The message is clear: staffrooms aren’t about escaping the classroom —they’re about prioritising wellbeing, experience and effectiveness.