Pressure on Teachers damaging Mental Health

An overwhelming majority of the UK’s education professionals say they have suffered physical and mental health issues as a result of their jobs in the first robust, large-scale survey of its kind published today (Monday 18th September).

The YouGov research, commissioned by the charity Education Support Partnership, reveals a bleak picture of the impact current pressures can have on those working in the sector. Three quarters (75%) of 1,250 school and college staff and leaders surveyed [1] said they had experienced psychological, physical or behavioural symptoms because of work, significantly higher than the UK working population overall (62%) [2] and of this group, workload and work-life balance were cited as the top work-related reasons.

The findings will be featured in an exclusive report on BBC London’s Inside Outprogramme to be aired on Monday 18th September at 7.30pm.

At the same time, just over half (53%) said they have considered leaving the sector in the past two years due to pressures on their health. This appears to reflect the findings of a National Audit Office report published last week which revealed that last year alone, 35,000 teachers left their jobs for reasons other than retirement.

Many appear to be experiencing higher levels of stress than the wider workforce with 29% saying they had felt stressed ‘most’ or ‘all of the time recently whilst 18% report these levels of stress outside of the sector [3]. 45% felt they don’t achieve the right balance between their home and work lives.

Within the education profession, many have experienced a variety of symptoms in the last two years;

  • Almost one in five (19%) said they had experienced panic attacks

  • Over half (56%) had suffered from insomnia and difficulties sleeping

  • Over a third (41%) had experienced difficulty concentrating

Half (49%) of those who said they had experienced psychological, physical or behavioural problems because of work said that their work performance had consequently suffered. Symptoms and issues suffered appearing similar across roles and levels of seniority.

  • Nearly half (47%) said their personal relationships had suffered

  • Over a quarter (28%) said they had been forced to take time off work

  • Of these, half (52%) had been off for more than a month during the academic year

Laura, an experienced primary school teacher, was suffering panic attacks. She said:

“I have been teaching for years in primary schools and love it. However, since having my children I was finding that I was working most evenings and at least ten hours every weekend and still not getting all my work done. I felt I wasn’t being a teacher or a mother properly.”

Victoria, a head of department in a secondary school was on the verge of leaving the profession when she spoke to our specialist helpline:

“The workload was relentless and despite asking for support to look at where I could cut it down, I received no guidance. I became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of my class.”

Yet despite individual examples of good support, the proportion of staff and school leaders who said they don’t feel confident disclosing such problems to employers was also revealed to be significantly higher than among the workforce as a whole (64% of educational professionals as opposed to 44% overall).

Education Support Partnership was pleased that Ofsted recently acknowledged the regulator’s role and responsibility in helping schools to reduce excessive workload and help improve teacher wellbeing and work-life balance. But education leaders and staff need genuine support to practically reduce and manage the causes of such a work-life imbalance.

Julian Stanley, Education Support Partnership’s Chief Executive said:

“These findings come just a few days after the latest National Audit Office report showed that many more teachers are clearly leaving the profession early compared with five years ago.

“Every day we support education professionals who are suffering the consequences of many factors causing severe pressure: budget cuts; fewer staff, bigger class sizes and localised recruitment and retention difficulties in some areas are adding to workload and increasing stress levels. Outside school, many are suffering financially. The housing crisis means growing numbers cannot pay their mortgage or rent, others have problems paying household bills.

“We are now seeing the impact of this perfect storm on many teacher’s mental health and wellbeing. This is a far-reaching crisis which needs comprehensive action

“If we are to keep our latest generation of talented teachers and education leaders we must ensure they have what they need to stay healthy. To perform at their best, we must work collaboratively; government, the DfE, Ofsted and schools, to find lasting solutions.

“Only then can we protect and expect our teachers to ‘lead by example’ to demonstrate and encourage good habits to our future generations.”


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