The conditions to flourish

Written by: Education Support | Published:

The Education Support Teacher Wellbeing Index gives us an up-to-date picture of stress and mental health in our profession...

Our recently published Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019 revealed that work-related stress in the profession has increased for a third consecutive year. Produced in partnership with YouGov, the report provides a robust and comprehensive contribution to the growing evidence-base in this area, enabling us to analyse trends.

While self-reported stress had significantly increased across the board, it was particularly acute among senior leaders in schools: 84 per cent (up from 75 per cent in 2017). Furthermore, 78 per cent of all education professionals said they have experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work.

Our report showed how education professionals continue to love many aspects of their work, the most important being to make a difference to the lives of young people. However, disproportionate levels of stress – higher than those of the general population – are causing many to be vulnerable. More than a third of education professionals said they had experienced a mental health issue in the past year with overwork and the pressure of over-scrutiny and accountability driving many to think about quitting. Fifty-seven per cent said they have considered leaving over the past two years as a result of pressures on their health and wellbeing.

Working long hours and feeling stressed appear to be closely linked and around half of the respondents said they felt that their workplace culture had a negative impact on their own mental health and wellbeing.

At a time of immense pressure on the education workforce, Education Support has witnessed unprecedented levels of demand for our services. In the past 12 months alone, we directly supported a record 14,081 people, with the severity of the cases managed significantly higher than at any point in this century so far. Our confidential Helpline dealt with a record number of cases, many of whom had reached a crisis point before accessing support.

These levels of stress and dissatisfaction are simply not sustainable, let alone desirable. As many school leaders struggle with chronic stress, one of our key recommendations is that all senior leaders have access to personal and peer support in the workplace, just as those working in health and social care settings have. Better support for leaders who in turn can better support their staff must be a priority.

School leaders must be funded and helped to shape supportive workplaces. Over-work has become normalised in education and we want to see healthy working practices and boundaries become the new norm. Workload continues to be the most important work-related factor determining wellbeing.

Furthermore, staff retention and stress are very closely linked. Encouragingly, knowledge into the causes and impact of teacher wellbeing has grown steadily in recent years and we are proud to be working closely with a range of academics and other stakeholders to help accelerate this process.

Schools have a part to play in harnessing this enthusiasm and introducing their own measures that deliver meaningful and sustainable change for all staff, creating the conditions and support to allow teachers, leaders and all school staff to flourish.

Teaching professionals are among the most valuable assets in our society and ought to feel respected, supported and resilient. It is time to take meaningful action to look after ourselves and our teams.

  • Education Support is a UK charity dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the education workforce. For help or advice on any issue facing those working in education, contact its free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 or visit www.educationsupport.org.uk


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