Publication Details

Dinham, S. & Scott, C. (2002). Pressure points: School executive and educational change. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 3 (2), 35-52.


Recent international research has demonstrated a relationship between physical health and occupational status/level of appointment: people who hold higher level positions enjoy better physical health on average than those in lower positions. Researchers have speculated that this may be in part due to the lower levels of control exercised over pace and timetabling of work by those occupying lower positions. Poorer physical health is thus mediated by lower levels of mental wellbeing.

Worldwide, many working in school education have experienced ‘control’ being taken away from them by rapid and constant educational change imposed from ‘the outside’. The pace and extent of change has varied across nations, and it can be predicted that its effects will also vary according to its intensity.

The research reported here was conducted in four countries - Australia, New Zealand, England and the United States of America - and employed a sample of more than 2600 teachers and school executives at over 360 primary and secondary schools.

Context - in this case, country - was found to be the most powerful predictor of overall career satisfaction, change in satisfaction and mental health, as measured by the General Health Questionnaire. This result is discussed in the light of levels of educational change experienced at each of the four sites.

The level of position an individual held and type of school they worked in were found to be related to his/her satisfaction and mental wellbeing in some contexts, but not others. In this paper, we explore the reasons for these relationships, using insights gained from the general research on occupational status and health.