The issue of staff and student well-being in FE in Wales is now not so much an issue to be solved, but a policy to be addressed. FE institutions are increasingly being encouraged to think about the health and happiness of staff and students proactively, rather than having to react to issues of poor health and unhappiness as they arise…
The independent nature of FE is potentially under threat as institutions are held to similar account as schools. Further to not creating negative situations for staff and students, well-being is increasingly being represented as ensuring conditions for staff or students. Throughout this assignment, it is argued that well-being is a series of balances which is difficult to achieve and must be addressed on an individual basis within a broadly supportive system of management. It is argued that well-being as a philosophy or policy has the potential to be more effective than existing deficit models where issues such as low morale, high workload and excessive stress are viewed simply as problems to be solved or obstacles to be removed.
Teaching staff face constant pressures to perform, and it is commonly accepted as a highly stressful job. As part of the debate over pay and conditions, the National Union of Teachers was potentially embarrassed in the media by the finding that the total work hours of teachers was less than an average worker when taken across the year and accounting for holidays (Baker, 2002). This effectively ended the debate over hours (that administration and marking was largely unpaid work), and focussed on more qualitative issues. These issues are related to well-being. For example, research commissioned by the National Union of Teachers found that the intensity of work was such that a teacher's blood pressure only returned to normal levels during the longer holidays (BBC News, 1999). Issues of stress and intensity had come into focus, and so the debate on pay and conditions was much less about the work teachers did and more about the effect that the work has on them.
Cooper and Weinberg (2007) introduce their book with an argument which relates to this idea. Assuming that virtually every worker would leave their job if they were financially independent (e.g. won the lottery), Cooper and Weinberg then pose the question of whether one would swap some of that lottery cash for an extra ten years of life. This is the issue of well-being, that stressful employment can be viewed as selling your life away in two ways. Firstly, the time spent at work is so intense that there is no time for social activities or other enjoyment on workdays (and possibly a lot of leisure time is given over to recovery rather than leisure). Secondly, and less directly, the stress of working has a negative impact on one's health and can shorten life expectancy.
In a world where everybody has not just won the lottery, this argument is still relevant. Life would equally be shortened and leisure opportunities impinged by a lack of money. As Cooper and Weinber ...
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