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Teachers lost 1.5 million days to stress and mental health last year

Teachers lost a staggering 1.5 million days to mental ill health and stress last year, new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

This is up seven per cent from the previous year, and up almost a fifth compared to three years ago, prompting warnings of a growing “mental health epidemic” facing the teaching profession.

The data is based on Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Liberal Democrats, with responses provided by 143 of 152 Local Education Authorities in England and Wales. In total over seven million teacher days have been lost to stress and mental health in the past five years.

The figures show a steady increase in days taken off for mental health reasons over the past three years, suggesting the Covid outbreak put significant additional strain on teachers. The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the Covid inquiry look into the toll on teachers and schoolchildren caused by the catastrophic handling of school and exams during the pandemic.

The party is also calling for much stronger mental health provision for those on the frontline throughout the pandemic, as well as a more generous catch-up scheme available for the children who have missed out. 

Some areas saw a particularly sharp rise in teachers taking time due to poor mental health. Kent saw a shocking 91,679 teaching days lost in 2021-22, more than anywhere else in the country and up almost fivefold from the previous year. Meanwhile Hampshire saw the number of teacher days taken off for mental health rise to 28,945 in 2021-22, up a third from the year before.

Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

“These figures show a growing mental health epidemic among our teachers, who have been under unimaginable pressure over the past few years. 

“Far too many teachers are facing burnout from unsustainable workloads and relentless pressure. Parents will be rightly worried about the terrible knock-on impact this could have on the education and well-being of our children. 

“The blame lies firmly at the door of the Conservative government who have messed teachers and pupils around time and again through their incompetence.

“The new Education Secretary must set out a clear plan to reverse the years of damage to the mental health and well-being of teachers, and to help recruit and retain the staff we need.

“The Covid inquiry must also look into the impact the government’s mishandling of the pandemic had on the mental health of teachers and other frontline workers.”

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