Coronavirus: impact on teacher wellbeing as school uncertainties continue | Education Support
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Coronavirus - diary of a headteacher

Coronavirus: impact on teacher wellbeing as school uncertainties continue

5th May 2020

“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).

Our latest research has revealed the deep impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the wellbeing and mental health of our teachers, highlighting the pressing need for support. Over half of the calls to our confidential helpline are now related to coronavirus.

In our specially commissioned YouGov TeacherTrack survey of 820 school teachers and school leaders, carried out by pollsters YouGov*, a third (34 per cent) told us that the mental health and wellbeing of themselves and their families is causing them greater anxiety and stress at the moment.

And as school closures, home teaching and learning go on, over half (59 per cent) of primary school teachers and 49 per cent of secondary teachers said they are feeling higher stress levels than usual.

Concerns around the welfare of children and staff, delivery of learning and how schools can manage to keep everyone safe if and when they re-open are all contributing to heightened anxieties.

One teacher commented:

“Before the schools shut it was immensely stressful at school. Children don't understand social distancing and I felt we were all at huge risk.  I'll probably feel the same when we go back”. (A primary school teacher, North East England).

Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support said that the findings reflect what we are hearing: “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.

“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.”

Thirty five per cent of teachers in the survey told us they were experiencing heightened stress and anxiety as a result of preparing work for pupils to complete at home.

A working parent reflected the pressures many are feeling:

“It is a totally different way of working, plus I have my own two small children at home. Trying to do work with my 4 year old, plus organise work and be available for my 31 students, and look after my 2 year old, is stressful as my husband is still working full time”. (A primary school teacher, Yorkshire)

A senior leader said simply: Mental health and wellbeing is all that matters at this moment in time. Education can wait”. (Assistant Headteacher, primary school, Wales).                                                                     

Other findings included:

  • 46% are uncertain about what may happen in the new school year in September
  • 44% are worried about what will happen this term
  • 43% of secondary teachers have higher levels of anxiety than normal about the exam process
  • 31% of primary teachers are particularly concerned about supporting families who need emotional and/or financial support.

What many have seen is the importance of our teachers and the central role they play in our society. Sinéad Mc Brearty concludes: “ 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 have created a new video featuring 7 strategies to manage anxiety, presented by Ben Amponsah, our consultant psychotherapist. This is the first of a special series of resources for teachers and all education professionals created to meet the challenges of the Coronavirus crisis. To find out more visit educationsupport.org.uk/coronavirus

*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.