Hunting Happiness

The Happy Teacher Project started with a problem…well a few actually:

-50% of teachers are thinking of leaving in the next 5 years.

Source: Guardian

•Recruitment targets have been missed for the last 5 years

Source: NAO

•Teachers are leaving the profession faster – of the teachers that qualified in 2010, one third had left the profession by 2015

Source DfE

•Absenteeism and vacant positions are an expensive problem with Local Authority schools spending an average of circa £60k and MATS spending £95k

Source DfE

It’s frightening to see how the low level grumbles and feelings of frustration on a local basis manifest themselves at national level.

It was these stats that made me want to start the Happy Teacher Project – I wanted to take some time away from a permanent role to do some consulting and dedicate more time to understanding the challenges.

Ready to be brilliant

Since leaving teaching ten years ago, I’ve worked in a number of different sectors, charitites, museums and a brief and slightly frightening experience in the private sector (I now do some work for a nice one so no offence intended!). In all of these workplaces I would turn up on my first day and would do my best to be brilliant.

I think that this is what the majority of us do at work. We turn up and try to be brilliant; we are switched on, motivated and in some cases ready to move mountains to get the job done. When offered the right conditions I felt I could move mountains regardless of the constraints. I felt like I was the best employee in the building (...this is completely unlikely BUT I was made to think I could do anything) whereas in others I didn’t feel the same way.

Baking a 'happy' employee?

These experiences of motivation/professional happiness/engagement whatever you want to call it have fascinated me and were a starting point of this work. I want to identify these “magic ingredients” that you find in some workplaces that allow the workforce to love what they do regardless of the constraints they find.

Funnily enough proper researchers aren’t happy with “magic ingredients” they have actually smacked proper key indicators onto this stuff that makes us feel good at work and in fact some organisations have gone as far to put a name to these unworldly bastions of happiness and good feels ….irresistible organisations.

This is what it looks like according to Deloitte.

It's not rocket science

So why are so many workplaces including schools still struggling to deliver better experiences of work? I think it's because none of the indicators above can be switched on with a button and it's still not a priority in schools as we haven't nailed the evidence between teacher satisfaction and pupil outcomes. It's still considered a nice to have rather an essential part of driving progress.

All employees are brilliant and completely committed.

At a far simpler level I think that this poster from the Government Digital Service offices (GDS) quickly establishes the type of culture they nurture in their workplace and how they do it.

This public sector employer's starting positon is that all employees are brilliant and completely committed so it's ok to...

Not sure about the singing...that really gets on my nerves.

Clearly there are a number of differences in the work of GDS and schools, however, I have shown this to a few teachers and senior leaders and they all felt a little weird about it. Is it really ok to make mistakes in schools? Equally are school staff allowed to have off-days? What about a messy desk??!!

If you have any thoughts on an "It's ok to..." for schools, I've set up a Google doc here would love your ideas or email me at do share the newsletter if you like and connect via twitter too @_happyhq_

Happy Thursday - steak and chips for tea tonight. Woohoo!


Next time: The happiness red herring?

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