Teachers angry – nine out of ten facing workload stress

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London teachers marching for increased school funding

‘Ministers, employers and inspectorates are failing in their duty of care to teachers, with a lack of action to address workload and the impact of the pandemic driving up stress and poor mental health to unprecedented levels,’ the NASUWT teachers union charged yesterday.

A survey by NASUWT into teacher wellbeing has found that nine in ten teachers have experienced more work-related stress in the last 12 months, with 91% reporting that their job has adversely impacted their mental health in the last year.
The impact of the pandemic has driven up teachers’ workloads that were already excessive still further, yet there is overwhelming evidence that schools, governments and employers are failing to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the impact on teachers and to put in place steps to support their physical and mental wellbeing.
More than three-quarters (78%) say that their school does not provide staff with workspaces that promote wellbeing and two thirds of teachers say that their school does not have measures in place to monitor and manage stress and burnout.
At national level the picture is even more damning, with more than four in five teachers (81%) saying they do not believe government policies support schools to respond to the mental health and wellbeing of teachers.
Nearly all respondents (98%) said they did not believe the inspection system takes teachers’ mental health and wellbeing into account when assessing schools.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: ‘While the pandemic has been tough for everyone, teachers have been right in the eye of the storm.
‘Even before Covid-19, teachers were already caught in a spiral of increasing workload and stress and the events of the last two years have turbo-charged the pressure they are under.
‘This was not inevitable. Excessive workloads and working hours should not be accepted as an intrinsic part of the job of teaching.
‘There are a multitude of practical steps which employers, governments and inspectorates can take, and which we have been pressing for, which would reduce the pressures on teachers without sacrificing educational standards or rigour in our schools.
‘Cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy, trusting teachers to teach and giving them greater freedom and autonomy to help pupils learn and progress – this is the model followed by the best employers and the most successful education systems globally.
‘Establishing working conditions which support the health and wellbeing of teachers will deliver a win-win in schools’ efforts to ensure the best outcomes for pupils.
‘Instead, employers and governments are fixated on heaping ever more pressure on teachers on the damaging assumption that teachers’ dedication to their pupils is unbreakable. The damaging toll on teachers’ health and wellbeing cannot continue to be written off as collateral damage.
‘This is no way to run a world-class education service.
‘If the government is truly committed to the educational success of children and young people, ministers must deliver a better deal for teachers.’
Wellbeing at Work Survey (December 2021-January 2022)
KEY FINDINGS:
The NASUWT Wellbeing at Work Survey 2021 ran from mid-December 2021 to early January 2022.
The survey was communicated to NASUWT members via email and 11,857 teachers responded.
PERSONAL
EXPERIENCE OF WELLBEING ISSUES
This section focused on teachers’ experiences of wellbeing issues, with a secondary focus on how the pandemic has affected these.
A key revelation worth noting is that even with the impact on work-life balance that the pandemic has had, workload is still the main factor that has been responsible for creating work-related stress for teachers:

  • 90% of teachers have experienced more work-related stress in the last 12 months;
  • 91% report that their job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months;
  • 64% report that their job has adversely affected their physical health in the last 12 months;
  • 52% say that workload has been the main factor for increased work-related stress, followed by the consequences of the pandemic (34%), and worries aboutpupil behaviour (24%), pupil wellbeing (24%), pupil academic performance (22%) and finances (11%);
  • 72% say that organising remote learning has been the major pandemic contributor to adverse mental health.

We asked teachers what impact stress was having on their lives. Key findings include:

  • 87% have experienced an increase in anxiousness;
  • 82% have suffered loss of sleep;
  • 28% have increased their use of alcohol;
  • 10% have had a relationship breakdown;
  • 7% have increased their use of prescription drugs;
  • 3% have self-harmed.

SCHOOL RESPONSE TO WELLBEING ISSUES
Teachers were asked about how they felt their school responded to issues around wellbeing and mental health.
The results are concerning:

  • 78% of teachers say that their school does not provide staff with workspaces that promote wellbeing;
  • 66% say that their school does not have measures in place to monitor and manage stress and burnout;
  • 66% say that their school/college does not have a school-based counsellor who is accessible to both staff and students/pupils;
  • 63% say that their school does not provide staff with a safe and comfortable space to take time out and debrief outside the classroom environment;
  • 53% disagree/strongly disagree that their school prioritises staff mental health – only 22% agree/strongly agree;
  • 50% say that their school does not provide flexible working opportunities;
  • 48% say that their school does not have staff wellbeing/mental health training in place;
  • 47% disagree/strongly disagree that their school works with the NASUWT and other trade unions to promote staff wellbeing – only 13% agree/strongly agree;
  • 42% disagree/strongly disagree that their school is committed to tackling mental health stigmas – only 27% agree/strongly agree;
  • 37% say that their school does not carry out an annual wellbeing survey, with 39% saying it does and 23% unsure.

THE TEACHING
PROFESSION AND
WELLBEING
Teachers and headteachers are very clear about the national education contexts within which they work and how they view teacher wellbeing issues.
Very few teachers view national support for the wellbeing of the profession as positive, whilst school-level issues were also highlighted as of concern:

  • 81% disagree/strongly disagree that government policies support schools to respond to mental health and wellbeing issues that affect teachers, with only 4% agreeing/strongly agreeing;
  • 57% disagree/strongly disagree that their school/college gives the same consideration and support to mental health as physical health, including in the management of staff absence;
  • 53% disagree/strongly disagree that government policies are focused on tackling the stigma around mental health, with only 12% agreeing/strongly agreeing;
  • Almost half of teachers (47%) responding strongly disagreed with the statement ‘My country’s inspectorate regime takes teacher mental health and wellbeing into account when assessing schools’, with a further 29% disagreeing, and only 2% agreeing or strongly agreeing.

COVID IMPACT
We asked teachers and headteachers about their experience of Covid and Long Covid, and how their school supported them if they had tested positive for the illness:

  • 47% of teachers responding reported that they had/suspected they had Covid-19 at some point during the pandemic;
  • 18% said they were currently suffering from Long Covid;
  • Of those who said they had been suffering from Long Covid, 35% said they had declared this to their employer, whilst 63% said they had not;
  • Of teachers who had declared they were suffering from Long Covid, 27% said their employer had been supportive, and 29% said they had not been supportive;
  • Of teachers who had not declared they were suffering from Long Covid – 63% said they did not see the point in doing so, 36% did not want to be labelled as suffering, 33% were concerned about future prospects, and 31% were concerned about punitive action from their employer – only 16% said that their symptoms did not impact upon their work.

DEMOGRAPHIC
SUMMARY
The survey was completed by 11,857 teacher and headteacher members of the NASUWT.

  • 82% of respondents were from England, 3% from Scotland, 8% from Northern Ireland, 6% from Wales, and 1% from Crown Dependencies.
  • 33% were primary phase teachers, 57% were secondary phase teachers, 6% were from special education, and 2% were sixth-form college/further education teachers.
  • 76% of respondents were women.
  • 92% identified as White, 2% as Asian/Asian British, 1% as Black, and 1% as Mixed Ethnic Group.

CONCLUSION
These survey results highlight the fact that there are significant issues affecting the health and wellbeing of teachers and headteachers across the education system as a whole.
Whilst individual workplaces can and should identify actions they can take to assess and mitigate the mental and physical stress and anxiety linked to work, the nature of our findings highlights the need for system-wide solutions to be found.
This research indicates that teachers and headteachers are experiencing increased mental health and wellbeing issues as each year passes, and the impacts are becoming noticeably more challenging.
What is also clear is that teachers have little confidence that their employer is able to provide effective support in the face of this growing problem.
Concerted action from the government and relevant bodies is needed in order to better support schools to tackle a problem which continues to impact on the morale of teachers and headteachers.
The NASUWT will be using the findings of this research to press governments and administrations to take appropriate action to safeguard the future of the teaching profession.