Coronavirus: Teachers experiencing high levels of stress as school uncertainty continues | Education Support
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Coronavirus: Teachers experiencing high levels of stress as school uncertainty continues

30th April 2020

Over half of primary school teachers (59 per cent) and 49 per cent of secondary teachers have expressed higher levels of stress and anxiety at the beginning of this summer term than usual. The findings come as uncertainty and media speculation around schools re–opening continues unabated. 

In response to a specially commissioned YouGov TeacherTrack survey of 820 schoolteachers and senior leaders, nearly half of those surveyed (49 per cent) said that most of their stress and anxiety is currently caused by the fear of themselves or their family catching the coronavirus . This was closely followed by the ongoing uncertainty about what may happen during the summer term (44 per cent) and worry about what may happen in the new school year (46 per cent.)

One respondent commented:

“I am never anxious about returning to school after the holidays.  I am anxious now because everything is uncertain, we are in danger of dying from a pandemic and I don’t know what we are going to do to cope and support our students” (Primary school teacher, Scotland).

Another said:

“We will be on tenterhooks not knowing what the government plans to do next, how much notice we’ll get for the children returning to school etc.  Schools closing was far more stressful than it needed to be, we were having to change plans daily as information was drip-fed.” (Headteacher, Primary Academy, South East England.)

Another school leader, reflecting the toll this crisis is taking on the sector added:

“Continuous work since January.  Tired, not sleeping properly.  Strange dreams.  Drained, trying to support and be up-beat for everyone else.” (Senior primary leader, Wales).

Unsurprisingly, the exam process was a far higher source of concern for secondary teachers; 43 per cent citing it as a source of higher stress and anxiety compared to just 5 per cent working in primary schools.

Meanwhile primary teachers showed higher levels of concern around supporting those families who might need emotional and/or financial support; 31 per cent of primary and 19 per cent of secondary school teachers said this was causing them higher levels of stress and anxiety. 

Primary Head Teacher Darren Morgan said:

“I think the current time is particularly challenging for teachers due to the uncertainty and insecurity, partly fuelled by the media.  We are finding this particularly challenging due to our holistic approach with children with whom we spend so much time.”

Other sources of greater stress and anxiety for teachers included:

  • Preparing work for pupils to complete at home (35 per cent).
  • The mental health and wellbeing of themselves and their family (34 per cent).

Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support commented:

Teachers responded to the pandemic with courage, care and determination; but many are now struggling with the demands of the current situation. Over half of the calls to our helpline are related to coronavirus, with specific factors affecting the education workforce.

“We are hearing from those in distress about their schools and their students, about their own health and that of their families, as well as the risk of being exposed to coronavirus in the school environment. Speculation about an early return to physical school sites, and concern about a lack of consultation from policymakers is fuelling further anxiety. Educators want to be back with their pupils and students, but want that return to be safe, planned and properly supported.

“This crisis has demonstrated to many the pivotal role teachers and schools play in our society. Educators tell us that they feel disorientated, and they recognise that Covid-19 has an uneven impact on communities, families and children. Our ability to recover from the pandemic will depend heavily on the capacity of the education workforce to support children through the transition back to a normal school life. This, in turn, requires good wellbeing and mental health across the sector. We must be strategic in our provision of support to educators over the coming months.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The research was conducted using an online survey of primary and secondary school teachers drawn from YouGov’s Teacher Track Survey. The total sample size was 820 teachers and the survey was conducted during the period 6 April to 14 April 2020. 

Education Support has created a new video featuring 7 strategies to manage anxiety, presented by Ben Amponsah, our consultant psychotherapist.  This is the first of a new series of resources for teachers and all education professionals. Visit educationsupport.org.uk/coronavirus

Call 08000 562561 and speak to a trained counsellor on our free, confidential Helpline, available 24/7. We are here for you.