Education support charity reports sharp rise in calls about stress

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

Calls from worried teachers to the Education Support Partnership’s confidential helpline have risen by a third in the last year, figures show.

Between April 2017 and March 2018 the charity’s helpline managed 8,668 cases. This included 3,136 who told counsellors that they were a teacher – up from 2,321 the year before, a 35 per cent increase.

The charity’s helpline is a free service that is available to all teachers, lecturers and staff in primary and secondary schools, further and higher education in England, Scotland and Wales. Callers are offered up to six sessions of telephone counselling with an accredited counsellor.

The two most common issues behind the calls were workplace stress (2,681) and work performance issues (1,029) according to the figures. There was also a 16 per cent year-on-year increase in calls relating to conflict at work and an 18 per cent increase in calls relating to harassment.

There has also been a 24 per cent rise in calls from headteachers and deputy heads. The charity received the most calls in November 2017.

The rise in calls matches the findings of the Education Support Partnership’s Health Survey report from last year, which found that a third of education professionals said their job had made them feel stressed most or all of the time in the past few weeks. This compares to 18 per cent of the UK workforce overall.

The research also found that 53 per cent of education staff have considered leaving the sector within the past two years because of health pressures.

Julian Stanley, CEO at Education Support Partnership, said: “The majority of those accessing our support are doing so at a late stage – once they have reached a crisis level. This can and should be avoided, where possible.

“School leaders, governors, teachers and support staff themselves must work to end the continuing stigma that exists about seeking support at the earliest possible sign of poor mental health and wellbeing. It is not easy for teachers to do this unless the environment they work in is supportive and understanding.

“If you are in education and worrying more than usual, finding it hard to enjoy your life outside work or having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with – these are all things that can lead to prolonged poor mental health if not dealt with. I would strongly encourage you to access the support that is available when this occurs.”

Victoria, a secondary school teacher, said: “I became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of a class. I stepped into my classroom and instantly knew I couldn’t be there – I just broke down in tears. I couldn’t explain it.

“The next day arrived and I didn’t want to go back. I knew that if I didn’t speak to someone, I would never go back to work. So I called the helpline. I can honestly say that the support I received from Education Support Partnership has kept me in teaching.”

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