A manifesto for wellbeing

Just before Parliament was dissolved, the formal pistol-fire for the General Election Campaign, the cross-party Education and Health Select Committees hurriedly released a joint report. It revealed how budget cuts mean an increasing number of schools have already reduced their mental health support for their pupils.

This is at a time when the need is growing sharply and despite the clear evidence of the key role schools and colleges have in promoting young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Without adequate time to take all of the 280–plus pieces of submitted written evidence into account, it calls on the next Government to ensure the inquiry continues, building on the wealth of evidence it has gathered so far.

The pressure of ‘teaching to the test’ is clearly having a detrimental impact on both children and teachers, with many education professionals struggling to protect their own wellbeing or able to demonstrate good practice to their students, their own mental health under immense pressure.

Shortly after the publication of the joint inquiry, the Education Select Committee issued a separate report showing how encouraging teachers in England to stay in the profession will continue to be a ‘significant challenge’ for the coming years with the reduction of workload highlighted as a key challenge.

As we find ourselves in the throes of exam season, this is of course something many of you are acutely aware of. The damage that very high stress and anxiety levels can have may have affected you, any number of your students and may be having a negative impact on your relationships with your families and friends. Calls to our specially trained counsellors reflect the pressure many are under throughout the academic year but at particular pinch points such as the summer.  

In our own ‘teacher wellbeing’ manifesto for 2017-2020, we set out five policies which we want prospective candidates of all parties to sign up to. We believe these could significantly improve the wellbeing of teachers and the wider education workforce, long proven to correspond strongly to student outcomes:

  1. We want to see training standards toughened and tightened up so that all new staff are properly prepared for key teaching challenges including workload and behaviour. 79% of teachers told us in our recent YouGov poll that a reduction in workload could positively influence them to stay in teaching.
  2. A measurable health and wellbeing policy in every institution. Our survey also identified that 44% of teachers and school leaders don’t expect to be working in the sector beyond the next five years and the same percentage said that better workplace support for personal wellbeing would be a positive influence. Health and wellbeing policies have never been more important and we want to see them reviewed and checked for progress every year.
  3. An accountability framework that supports the profession. Inspections and regulation should inspire and help promote a healthier culture. School leaders need to check that their institution is not unnecessarily imposing bureaucratic requirements for inspection and foster a supportive environment with colleagues.
  4.  Improve the status and standing of education professionals. 41% of teachers in our YouGov survey told us that a more positive perception of what it is like to work in education could influence them to stay. Policy makers need to genuinely hear concerns and act on research findings such as our own. Positive media stories and national teaching awards really can make a difference to morale.
  5. Pledge to speak up about the importance of staff health in education. Wellbeing is now firmly on the political agenda but parliamentarians and key policy makers need to speak up on the support education staff need.  

Whoever forms our new government, let’s do all we can to see both action and words to make a real change for teacher wellbeing for the future.  

Share our manifesto and keep the conversation going by using our hashtag #health4edu on Twittter.