More suffer poor mental health whilst stress levels soar

More UK teachers than ever are experiencing symptoms that can lead to depression and anxiety, in a significant rise on previous levels. They also experience symptoms of depression at far higher levels than the general population1 according to the latest in-depth research amongst the profession.

News 26 November 2020 / 4 mins read

The findings, part of the 2020 Teacher Wellbeing Index, conducted annually by the charity Education Support in conjunction with YouGov2, reveal a sharp increase since last year in those who have experienced symptoms widely associated with poor mental health. In a survey of 3034 education professionals in July;

“If I’m honest, at the present time, I feel like each day’s problems are impossible to solve.”
Primary Headteacher

52%

said they had suffered from insomnia in the last year (compared to 37% in the last 2 years)

41%

tearfulness (compared to 26% in the last 2 years)

40%

had difficulty concentrating (compared to 23% in the last 2 years)

The profession has been further hit by rocketing stress levels since schools re-opened in September as staff have struggled to implement Covid-19 measures, with limited resources or support. Our additional research of 1,072 education professionals with YouGov in October found that 84% of teachers and 89% of school leaders described themselves as feeling ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed,’ a significant jump compared to 62% and 77% respectively when asked in July.

Following our earlier special investigation Covid and the Classroom3, published in September, the Wellbeing Index is recognised as the most in-depth and robust annual insight into the mental health of the UK’s education profession. Together with our insight into how schools are coping in the pandemic, it builds a clear picture of how existing pressures have pushed an already strained workforce to breaking point.

Half of all teachers (51%) and 59% of senior leaders said they had considered leaving the profession this year due to pressures on their health and wellbeing. The main reason given by 68% of education professionals was the volume of workload (rising to 76% for senior leaders), making action to address the growing issues more urgent than ever.

“The goalposts keep moving and being able to do everything well is getting harder and harder, which is putting more and more stress on individual teachers and school communities. For some the constant change is unmanageable and stress levels are rising rapidly amongst even some of my calmest colleagues. The regular uncertainty as to what will happen next led me to desperately seeking help.”
Victoria, Secondary school teacher

Whilst more felt their school’s cultures were changing to recognise the importance of staff mental health and wellbeing, over half (57%) still said they would not feel confident disclosing unmanageable levels of stress at work. The main reason for not talking to anyone in the workplace about mental health issues was that they felt it would reflect negatively on them.

Commenting on this year’s findings, Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support said:

“There is ample evidence that educators play a critical role in the wellbeing and attainment of children and young people. No one delivers their best work when they are very stressed or emotionally depleted. The compound effect of high levels of stress over a number of years is deeply worrying: the additional strain and anxiety generated by Covid-19 is a step too far.

“The government’s extra funding planned for 2022-2023 is simply not enough in real terms to meet the scale of need. Senior leaders in particular have reached breaking point, stretched to the limit in being able to cope with the extraordinary pressures on top of existing stress.

“It is time to start taking the mental health of our teachers and educators seriously. The first step is investment. We ask the UK Government to act now, by providing education institutions with the resources needed to perform their duties effectively. If we don’t, we risk losing the much needed talent and experience that can guide the education sector through recovery from the pandemic.”

The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2020 is the fourth large-scale survey benchmarking the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals in the UK. Read and download the full report here: www.educationsupport.org.uk/wellbeing-index

SOCIAL MEDIA ASSETS

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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.

32% amongst education professionals compared to 19% in the general population of Great Britain. ONS- ‘Coronavirus and depression in adults in Great Britain, June 2020’www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommu­nity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusanddepressioninadults­greatbritain/ ‘june2020

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.

Our Coronavirus-specific research was carried out as part of the same YouGov survey. October Teacher Track results are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,072 teaching professionals from across the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15/10/2020 - 25/10/2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the teaching profession by phase, region, age and gender.