From education to employment

Teacher Wellbeing Index highlights stress epidemic and rising #MentalHealth issues

Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership

Education Support Partnership, the UK’s only charity committed to the wellbeing and mental health of everyone working in education, is demanding urgent action be taken by the government and sector to address a stress epidemic and rising mental health issues across the entire UK education workforce.

Regarding Education Support Partnership comments on teacher mental health made today (15 May) Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We want every child to be taught by great teachers who have the time, freedom and support to do what they do best – inspire the next generation.

“Where staff are struggling we trust headteachers to take action to tackle the causes of stress and ensure they have the support they need.

“In March, the Secretary of State announced the launch of an Expert Advisory Group to look at how teachers and school leaders can be better supported to deal with the pressures of the job, which builds on our Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy which focuses on the importance of developing supportive cultures.”

“Employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees, which includes minimising the risk of stress-related illness.

“The Department is already taking action in this area in order to strengthen work life balance and wellbeing, such as reducing workload, supporting early career school teachers, promoting flexible working and tackling accountability pressures as well as supporting schools to deal with behaviour management.

“We have worked with school leaders and teachers to create a workload reduction toolkit, which provides practical advice and resources that schools can use rather than creating new ones from scratch.

“We are also tackling excessive data burdens in schools; simplifying the accountability system to target the associated burdens and working with Ofsted to ensure staff workload is considered as part of a school’s inspection judgement.

“The workload reduction toolkit has been collectively downloaded over 140,000 times since publication last July.

“Alongside this Early Career Framework will underpin an entitlement to a funded two-year support package for new teachers, providing them with the early career support and development including mentoring.”

More than three-quarters of teachers surveyed experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms and more than half were considering leaving the profession due to poor health.

Senior leaders have been particularly hard hit with 80% suffering from work-related stress, 40% suffering from symptoms of depression and 63% considering leaving the profession – an issue, which unaddressed will leave many schools with no one to lead, motivate staff and maintain and improve educational outcomes.

Key findings from the Ed Support’s Teacher Wellbeing Index, conducted in partnership with YouGov. include:

  • 76% of education professionals experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work, compared to 60% of UK employees
  • 57% considered leaving the profession in the last two years due to health pressures
  • 47% experienced depression, anxiety or panic attacks due to work.

The 2018 results – when compared to ESP’s Health Survey 2017 – revealed a significant rise in several mental health and wellbeing-related symptoms.

Rising levels of insomnia and irritability/mood swings over the last year were the most common factors:

  • Insomnia (increased from 41-56%) and
  • irritability or mood swings (from 37-51%)
  • Tearfulness (31-44%),
  • forgetfulness (27-41%) and
  • difficulty concentrating (27-40%)
  • Senior leaders were more likely to suffer from all these symptoms than teachers and other education professionals
  • The largest increase in the signs of depression was from senior leaders, which rose from 25% in 2017 to 40% in 2018
  • Acute stress was a new category for the 2018 survey – with 27% of education professionals showing signs of this (31% for senior leaders), and 23% with these signs receiving a formal diagnosis from their GP.

Heralded as the most comprehensive report into the wellbeing of educational professionals –spanning teaching assistants and newly qualified teachers through to senior leaders across primary, secondary and further education – the Index builds on the findings of ESP’s 2017 survey and will act as a benchmark to analyse findings in the education sector over time.

The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018 is structured around four main themes:

Section one builds a picture of the sector overall – key statistics include:

  • 67% of teachers are stressed at work
  • 29% work more than 51 hours a week – approximately 14 hours more per week than the national average of 37.4 hours (Office for National Statistics)
  • 74% say the inability to switch off from work is the major contributing factor to a negative work-life balance.

Section two looks at mental health at an individual level, key findings include:

  • 31% experienced a mental health issue in the past year
  • 72% say workload is the main reason for considering leaving their jobs
  • 43% and 37% of education professionals’ symptoms could be signs of anxiety or depression (50% of those with symptoms were diagnosed by a GP).

Section three examines the impact of an individual’s mental health and wellbeing on others in the sector, key findings include:

  • 47% of educators with mental health symptoms were away for a month or more over the academic year
  • 40% of senior leaders and teachers believe having time off work due to mental health symptoms will have a negative impact on their students’ studies
  • 56% of school leaders (49% of teachers) believe their personal relationships have suffered as a result of psychological, physical or behavioural problems at work.

Section four discusses mental health and wellbeing guidance available to educators:

  • 65% say they wouldn’t feel confident in disclosing mental health problems or unmanageable stress to their employer
  • 36% say they have no form of mental health support at work
  • 64% of schools do not regularly survey their staff to gauge employee wellbeing
  • 74% say they don’t have enough guidance about mental health at work.

Following the results of the 2018 Index, Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership, is adamant that the stress epidemic and rise in poor mental health across the education workforce be addressed and is calling for the introduction of the following measures:

  • Mandatory provision of personal mental health and wellbeing guidance within Initial Teaching Training
  • Regulators to prioritise staff wellbeing in their assessments and measure this against an evidenced based framework
  • Statutory annual staff surveys in all schools and colleges; with senior leaders acting on the issues identified in an open and transparent way
  • Increased awareness, knowledge and signposting to external support services
  • Access to an employee assistance programme for all staff in schools and colleges
  • Access to facilitated peer support programmes for all senior leaders in schools and colleges.

Commenting on the 2018 Index when it was released on 22nd OCt 2018

Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership said:

“Of particular concern for me this year is the sharp rise in poor mental health amongst senior leaders. We must do more to protect this group and support them to manage their own wellbeing as well as equipping them with the resources to create a positive mental health culture for their staff.

“Teaching is one of the most important jobs there is, a chance to shape the future of the next generation. But by turning the role into an unmanageable task or failing to make wellbeing a priority in schools we risk alienating those with the passion and skill to succeed.

“We will be working closely with the Government, and key stakeholders, to drive forward a sector-led movement that delivers meaningful policy-level changes that leave a lasting impact on the lives and wellbeing of teachers, staff and pupils.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“The Education Secretary has been clear that there can be no great schools without great teachers and we have committed to tackling issues that could affect teachers’ mental health and wellbeing.

“We understand that teacher mental health and wellbeing can be affected by a whole range of issues – we are considering these as part of our teacher recruitment and retention strategy. This includes thinking about how we can support schools to increase opportunities for flexible working that can support teacher wellbeing. The department has also taken a number of steps – collaborating with teachers, unions and Ofsted – to strip away excessive workload which is one of the factors that can affect wellbeing.”

Further statistics about the state of mental health in the education workforce:

  • 3,750 teachers took long-term sick leave in 2017 due to work-related anxiety and mental illness, this equates to one in every 83 teachers (Liberal Democrats Freedom of Information Request, 2018)
  • In the last 12 months there has been a 35% increase in teachers calling ESP’s emotional support helpline. From April 2017 to March 2018 a total of 8,668 cases were managed through the helpline.
  • In the period April 2017 to March 2018 the Education Support Partnership had 357 callers to its helpline identified as being at risk of suicide. From April to September 2018 there have been 163 callers.

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