A third of teachers say they regularly feel stressed by life at the chalkface

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Almost a third of teachers say that the job makes them feel stressed most or all of the time, while three-quarters of the profession report psychological or physical symptoms that they attribute to their work.

These figures – revealed in a new report from the Education Support Partnership – are significantly higher than those for the UK workforce as a whole.

The findings in the Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Education Profession 2017 report are based on YouGov research involving 1,250 teachers, further lecturers and university lecturers.

Of these professionals, 29 per cent said that they have felt stressed most or all of the time in the past few weeks (the survey was carried out from June 9 to 23 this year). The comparable figure for the UK workforce as a whole is 18 per cent. Among school leaders, this figure rises to 37 per cent.

Furthermore, half of the respondents said they have experienced behavioural (56 per cent), psychological (50 per cent) or physical symptoms (50 per cent) due to work or where work was a contributing factor. Overall, three quarters of the profession (75 per cent) report experiencing at least one of these symptoms related to work – the comparable figure for the UK workforce as a whole is 62 per cent.

Teachers responding to the survey said that these issues have led to their performance suffering (49 per cent), personal relationships suffering (47 per cent), or work relationships suffering (25 per cent), while 28 per cent have had to take time off work. Twelve per cent said they quit because of the symptoms they faced.

In terms of working hours, 32 per cent reported working more than 51 hours a week on average, while 56 per cent work more than 41 hours a week. Those with fewer years of service and senior leaders are more likely to be working longer hours.

Furthermore, 45 per cent of teachers said they don’t achieve the right balance between their home and work lives.

The survey also reveals that half of education professionals have considered leaving the education sector during the past two years as a result of health pressures.

The biggest reasons for thinking about quitting were high workloads and to seek a better work/life balance.

The research finds that the more hours a teacher is working each week, the more likely they are to have considered quitting.

Those in senior leadership roles are also more likely than those in teaching roles to have considered leaving the education sector – with 65 per cent of senior leaders reporting they have considered leaving compared with 55 per cent of teaching staff.

The report also warns that a majority of teachers (64 per cent) would not feel comfortable disclosing mental health issues to their managers. This figure rises to 70 per cent for secondary school teachers. This compares to 44 per cent for the workforce as a whole.

When asked what could improve the mental health of the workforce, the respondents wanted their managers to work with staff to reduce workload (54 per cent), better communication about changes (31 per cent), and a more approachable leadership team (30 per cent).

Julian Stanley, CEO of the Education Support Partnership, said: “For many of the 1,250 education professionals who responded to this survey, the impact of extremely heavy workloads and rapid change is clearly taking its toll. It is impacting on the health and the ability of significant numbers to perform at their best and this is fuelling the current, growing recruitment and retention crisis. The scale of the problem is sadly all-too-familiar to our helpline counsellors who deal with thousands of calls every year.

“Politicians, policy-makers, governors and education leaders must ensure they create the conditions for our teachers to thrive and succeed.

“The emotional and economic cost of burnout and highly stressed teaching staff and leaders should not be underestimated.”


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