Work-related stress in the teaching profession has increased for a third consecutive year | Education Support
Work-related stress in the teaching profession has increased for a third consecutive year

Work-related stress in the teaching profession has increased for a third consecutive year

11th November 2019

Work-related stress in the teaching profession has increased for a third consecutive year, with sharp rises in tearfulness, difficulty sleeping and irritability amongst education professionals across the UK.

The annual Teacher Wellbeing Index – conducted by the charity Education Support in partnership with YouGov – is recognised as the most in-depth and robust insight into the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals. The 83-page report – now in its third edition – features a sample of 3,019 and affords the ability to track trends over time. In 2019’s report:

  • Over one third of education professionals (34 per cent) experienced a mental health issue in the past academic year (31 per cent in 2018) with 78 per cent of all education professionals experiencing either behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work (76 per cent in 2018).
  • Senior leaders reported the highest levels of stress in 2019 (84 per cent), up from 80 per cent in 2018 and 75 per cent in 2017.
  • Rises in the stress levels of school teachers also occurred, with 73 per cent reporting being stressed in 2019, compared with 64 per cent in 2018 and 67 per cent in 2017.
  • Education professionals scored an average of 44.7 on the 14-point Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale * (a scale used to gauge the mental wellbeing of a population), a notably lower score than the general population scores of 49.85 in England [1], 49.80 in Scotland [2] and 50.9 in Wales [3].
  • Education professionals working in the West Midlands and North West England reported the highest levels of work-related stress (77 per cent and 75 per cent respectively) and the lowest Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale scores (43.6 and 43.4 respectively).
  • More than half of education professionals (57 per cent) have considered leaving the sector in the past two years due to health and wellbeing pressures, with the volume of workload (71 per cent) and not feeling valued (65 per cent) cited as the two major reasons given. There was also an increase in pupil/student behaviour given as a factor, rising from 33 per cent in 2017 to 42 per cent in 2019.

The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019 is structured around four main themes.

Section one builds a picture of the sector overall. Key findings include:

  • 74 per cent of education professionals consider the inability to switch off and relax to be the major contributing factor to a negative work-life balance.
  • Working long hours and the feeling of stress appear to be closely linked. Only 57 per cent of education professionals who typically worked under 40 hours per week felt stressed compared to 83 per cent of those who worked 41-60 hours a week and 89 per cent of those working 61 or more hours a week.
  • Despite this, the impact of working long hours over the weekends (on a negative work/life balance) has reduced by 7 per cent in 2019 (55 per cent) compared to 2018.

Section two looks at mental health at an individual level. Key findings include:

  • Compared to 2018, there was a large increase in people suffering from many and varied symptoms; including a 15 percentage point increase in education professionals experiencing tearfulness (29 per cent to 44 per cent), a 15 percentage point increase in difficulty concentrating (27 per cent to 42 per cent) and a 14 percentage point increase in insomnia/difficulty sleeping (38 per cent to 52 per cent).
  • 43 per cent of Newly-Qualified Teachers experienced a mental health issue in the past academic year, compared to 34 per cent of all education professionals.
  • Of those education professionals who reported they had experienced a mental health issue, 31 per cent attributed this to work (which was higher among senior leaders), 51 per cent to both work and home issues and 15 per cent to their personal life.
  • Almost half of education professionals (49 per cent) felt their workplace culture had a negative impact on their on their mental health and wellbeing.

Section three examines the impact of an individual’s mental health and wellbeing on others in the sector. Key findings include:

  • Over half (51 per cent) of education professionals experiencing behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms as a result of work believed their work performance suffered. 46 per cent also felt their personal relationships suffered.
  • 41 per cent of senior leaders believed having time off due to mental health symptoms would have a negative impact on pupils/students’ studies (40 per cent in 2018).
  • Furthermore, 32 per cent of education professionals believed this would be bad for team morale (this is a larger increase from 15 per cent in 2018).

Section four discusses mental health and wellbeing guidance available to staff. Key findings include:

  • Only one third (34 per cent) of education professionals felt confident disclosing unmanageable stress or mental health issues to their employers (31 per cent in the last two years).
  • Less than half (41 per cent) of education professionals felt that their organisations supported staff who had mental health problems well.
  • 39 per cent would not talk to anyone at work about mental health issues because they felt it would negatively affect others’ perceptions of them.
  • The two most popular forms of support were access to Employee Assistance Counselling Services (which increased by 6 per cent from 21 per cent in 2018 to 27 per cent in 2019), and their Unions (which increased from 25 per cent in 2018 to 27 per cent in 2019).
  • 69 per cent felt they do not get enough guidance about mental health and wellbeing at work (compared to 74 per cent in 2018).

Commenting on the findings Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO at Education Support, said:

“It is time to address unproductive stress in our schools and colleges.

“Good teaching requires the highest levels of physical, social and emotional energy. That is why the mental health and wellbeing of this workforce is so critical; and why the trends we are seeing in this year’s Index present such a concerning picture.

“Our understanding of mental health and emotional development has grown over recent decades, yet we do not widely and openly acknowledge the extent of the emotional work inherent in education. The disproportionately high levels of stress reported by the workforce impede their ability to effectively nurture children and young people, including an increasing number who are vulnerable.

“Encouragingly, knowledge into the causes and impact of teacher wellbeing has grown steadily in recent years. This improved evidence base has coincided with an appetite and energy from across the sector, and among policymakers, to address the issue.

“We must harness this current enthusiasm to introduce measures that deliver meaningful and sustainable change, creating the systems, policies, conditions and support to allow teachers and school staff to flourish.

“Teaching professionals are among the most valuable assets in our society and ought to feel respected, supported and resilient. It is time to take meaningful action to look after the people who look after our children and young people.”

The report presents six key recommendations:

  1. Educational reforms should promote increased levels of trust and autonomy for educators, demonstrating that staff are valued. This will improve self-esteem and wellbeing across the sector, with a positive impact on recruitment, retention and pupil outcomes.
     
  2. Accountability systems need to continue to evolve in a way that builds teacher efficacy and development, as opposed to unproductive tension and anxiety.
     
  3. Overwork has become normalised across education. Healthy working practices and boundaries need to become the new, celebrated norm. With improved levels of health, teachers will be more physically and emotionally present to learners.
     
  4. School and college leaders must be funded (and assisted) to shape supportive, relational workplaces. Positive workplaces support better wellbeing.
     
  5. All senior leaders should have access to personal and peer support. Tackling the level of chronic stress reported among this group should be made a priority.
     
  6. Every member of staff should have access to professional and confidential emotional support, through an Employee Assistance Programme (or equivalent service). This can help resolve issues and effectively support education professionals to manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Education Support is a UK charity dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the entire education workforce through a number of ways:

NOTES TO EDITORS

The research was conducted using an online survey of education professionals drawn from YouGov’s panel. The total sample size was 3,019 education professionals and the survey was conducted during the period 25 June to 29 July 2019. The sample included all job roles within the education profession from senior leaders through to support staff working in the early years, Primary, Secondary, Further, Adult and Vocational education sectors. This is the third large-scale survey which Education Support has conducted. In 2018 the survey was published as ‘Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018’ and previously as ‘Healthy Survey 2017: the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals in the UK.’

Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale was developed to enable the measuring of mental wellbeing in the general population and the evaluation of projects, programmes and policies, which aim to improve mental wellbeing. The 14-item scale WEMWBS has five response categories, summed to provide a single score. The items are all worded positively and cover both feeling and functioning aspects of mental wellbeing, thereby making the concept more accessible. The scale has been widely used nationally and internationally for monitoring, evaluating projects and programmes and investigating the determinants of mental wellbeing. For more information click here.

Spokespeople and case studies are available on request

[1] NHS Digital (2017).  Health Survey for England – Wellbeing and Mental Health (2016).  13 December 2017. View here.

[2] Scottish Government (2018).  “The Scottish Health Survey, 2017”.  September 2018.  Volume 1, Main Report. View here.

[3] Welsh Government (2019).  “National Survey for Wales”.  StatsWales.  28 June 2019. View here.