Covid-19: Teacher mental health and wellbeing suffers whilst lack of appreciation or guidance leaves profession struggling
Half of the UK’s school teachers (52%) say their mental health declined during the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic whilst 67% of senior leaders working on-site at a school or college said the lack of timely government guidance was a key challenge for them throughout.
News 17 September 2020 / 4 mins read
The findings, based on a YouGov survey commissioned by charity Education Support are part of a special investigation into the wellbeing of the sector during the crisis. It forms part of the upcoming Teacher Wellbeing Index to be published later this year.
Revealing a profession feeling unsupported and unappreciated, the research was carried out with 3034 education professionals in schools and colleges ahead of the end of the Summer term. ‘Covid-19 and the classroom: Working in education during the oronavirus pandemic: the impact on education professionals’ mental health and wellbeing’ demonstrates the way the pandemic has significantly heightened and further entrenched existing issues for those working in the sector.
Teachers and education professionals were asked if they felt their work has been valued during the pandemic. Whilst feelings of appreciation within their immediate communities was high, this dropped dramatically in relation to external relationships, including government and education departments:
felt appreciated by the parents and carers of the pupils and students they have been supporting
felt appreciated by colleagues
felt appreciated by their Senior Management Team
felt appreciated by the UK Government
felt appreciated by the UK's respective education departments
felt appreciated by the general media
Alongside these feelings of under-value, the lack of clear guidance and direction from the UK Government emerged as a consistent and dominant theme.
The urgent need to strengthen expertise and specialist support for staff in schools to maintain and strengthen their and children’s mental health and wellbeing was also demonstrated. Whilst the majority (58%) accessed the support of family and friends to help cope with the pandemic, a quarter (24%) said they hadn’t accessed any support at all.
In terms of skills and attributes most needed now when adapting back to school or college after lockdown, 56% said they felt the ability to quickly adapt to new circumstances was the most important attribute or skill and for staff working from home, 41% were concerned with ensuring pupils and students were safe.
Commenting on the findings, Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support said:
“At a time of economic, social and emotional recovery, the education workforce is focused on supporting children and young people to find their feet, recover learning and re-establish relationships. Their success in doing this will directly affect the life chances of a generation. Yet at this critical point, we find that those working in schools and colleges feel poorly supported and unappreciated by government in particular.
“There is a clear message here from teachers: involve us in decision-making, provide clear guidance, give us the time and resources required to support children and young people through this historic event.
"The education workforce has been purposeful and adaptable during the pandemic. It is time now for government to demonstrate respect, value and trust in the profession. Done well and quickly, this will provide a huge boost to morale across education.”
Victoria, Secondary school teacher
The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2020 will be published in November. This will be the fourth large-scale survey benchmarking the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals in the UK. The report will reference and broaden some of the findings of this report.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Our CEO Sinéad Mc Brearty is available for interview on request
Education Support is the only UK charity dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of education staff in schools, colleges and universities. Our free and confidential helpline is available 24/7 to everyone working in education and is available UK wide on 08000 562 561.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3034 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th June - 16th July 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted by education phase to be representative of the education workforce.