Our Teacher Wellbeing Index highlights stress epidemic

Today (October 22nd) sees the publication of our Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018conducted in partnership with YouGov. This comprehensive and robust research highlights a stress epidemic and rising mental health issues across the entire UK education workforce. 

Our annual measurement of the mental health and wellbeing of all educational professionals throughout the UK should concern us all. More than three-quarters of education professionals surveyed experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms.

An alarming 57% have considered leaving within the past two years because of health pressures and teachers are leaving the profession at the highest rates since records began with one in three quitting in the first five years.

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.

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)

Victoria was one who suffered due to high workload:

“Anxiety hit as I walked into my classroom one morning - anxiety so crippling I had to turn and walk out. A member of staff caught me in the corridor, asked if I was okay and that was it. Tears streamed down my face, snot poured from my nose, words failed to leave my mouth. The deputy head came to see me to ask what was wrong. I couldn’t explain but I couldn’t be there. The job had worn me down, the emotional toll broke me.”

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 Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018, 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, Julian Stanley 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.”

Please download the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018 for the full results.