Three in five education staff are underperforming at work due to mental health problems

9th October 2014

Three in five people working in education say their work performance has suffered as a result of mental health problems, according to our research. 

An overwhelming majority of the education workforce have experienced a common mental health condition in the last two years, following a poll by Education Support Partnership (then Teacher Support Network Group). 

  • 88% said they suffered from stress, 72% anxiety and 45% had depression 

  • 60% said their work performance suffered and 70% said they lost confidence as a result 

  • This led to 27% taking time off work while 13% quit their job 

A large majority of 89% blamed excessive workloads for their ill health while more than half cited rapid change (54%) and unreasonable demands from managers (53%) as major factors. Overall, 80% of teachers, lecturers and support staff said their mental health would improve if managers worked with staff to reduce workload.

Teacher Support Network Group’s Education Staff Health Survey 2014 polled 2,463 people working in schools, colleges and universities across the UK in September.

Julian Stanley, Chief Executive of Teacher Support Network Group, said: “These results show how poor mental health at work is destroying the quality of teaching. A significant number of staff are taking time off sick while others who remain at work demonstrate how ill health affects their confidence and performance in the classroom or lecture hall. 

How can teachers, lecturers and support staff be able to focus on raising education standards when they are suffering as a result of unsustainable workloads and poor support from managers? Our research already shows there could be a link between a teacher’s health and their students’ outcomes. We need government and school leaders to understand how important it is to ensure our teaching staff are mentally and physically fit."

Widespread symptoms reported included problems sleeping (86%), headaches (67%) and lack of concentration (60%).

Just 8% of people polled said a wellbeing policy at work was always implemented. The results suggested that such policies are effective with individuals working in an environment where staff health and wellbeing was carefully monitored reported significantly lower levels of mental health conditions: those suffering from anxiety fell by more than a third to 49%.

A-level psychology teacher Graham Calvert, 49, of London, quit his job as head of department after suffering work-related depression.

"I had three episodes of depression between 2011 and 2013. It was primarily related to the teaching environment and things that happened to me at work would build up over time" he said.

A sixth form science teacher from North of England, who asked not to be named, was signed off work from May until September this year with ME. She said: "I suspect work may have triggered it. Three months before I physically collapsed because of stress at school. I was physically shaking after some lessons.

I knew I was stressed but I knew this wasn’t normal. I spoke to my line manager but she said everyone is struggling, it’s hard in the run up to Ofsted, it’s normal. There is a lack of knowledge in schools about what is a normal level of health. I was signed off six weeks before the exams. I wasn’t there at that important time and it does affect the students’ learning."

A primary school teacher from Greater London, who asked not to be named, was signed off sick with a double chest infection in December 2012.

She said: "I love teaching and hate it in equal measure. I work 65 hours a week, I’m always tired and stressed out. It took me months to recover from the double chest infection. I was constantly under the weather and that’s when I got eczema. My doctor said he should give me a prescription for a new job. He said all my illnesses are down to stress.

I also have IBS and take 10 different tablets every day for all my medical problems. My general health is low. My dermatology flares up when I’m stressed, I have problems sleeping and it’s shocking how low my energy levels are."