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  • Writer's pictureMatt Peake

Teachers’ Wellbeing On The Line

As many schools in the UK start the last week of term, this one goes out to the Educators – teachers, classroom assistants, support staff and school leadership. You are my heroes.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with what school staff are currently dealing with, let’s consider this for a moment…

First of all, on top of a full-on working day spent teaching, inspiring, controlling and caring for dozens of children with different needs and abilities, there are lesson plans, marking, report cards, parents’ evenings, careers guidance, after-school clubs, field trips, sports fixtures and student productions.

Then there is the school administration, performance monitoring, departmental budgeting, governors’ meetings, CPD and Ofsted inspections, all set against a backdrop of ever-changing government directives, legislation, and new school policies, procedures and processes.

As if that weren’t enough, there are additional pandemic-related challenges including providing cover for isolating colleagues, delivering remote learning, managing students’ fears and anxieties, implementing new safeguarding protocols and addressing knowledge gaps ahead of exams that may or may not take place in the summer!

And finally, these people still have their own personal situations to deal with, whether that’s caring for their own children or parents, household chores, managing finances, maintaining relationships with friends and dealing with any domestic emergencies that arise.

The last two years have, more than ever, placed exceptional demands on teaching staff to be flexible, innovative, agile, nurturing, focussed, resilient and mostly magical.

Are teachers at breaking point?

The recent results of Education Support’s annual Teacher Wellbeing Index and the Teacher Tapp online survey make worrying reading for parents, students and the education community at large.


54% of school staff have considered leaving the profession in the last two years due to wellbeing concerns, with the key reasons being volume of workload, not feeling valued, the need for better work/life balance and unnecessary paperwork and data gathering.

74% of headteachers have seen a staff member in tears this term (Teacher Tapp survey), reflecting the impact of sustained pressure on the physical and emotional reserves of staff.

Nearly half (46%) of school staff feel compelled to always come into work when feeling unwell, this is largely due to a lack of trust and support within the organisational culture of many schools.

Work-related stress

72% of school staff describe themselves as stressed (up from 62% in 2020), with the main factors being excessive workload, unmanageable work/life balance and Covid-19.

77% of school staff have experienced the symptoms of poor mental health as a result of work, a level that has remained constant at around three quarters of staff for the last five years, with the main symptoms being insomnia, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, over-eating and tearfulness.

Staff working in education report higher levels of anxiety, exhaustion and depression than the general population and the sector has a National Wellbeing Score of 43.8 (which is a deterioration from the 2020 score of 45.6 and well below the national score for adults 52.4) – for context, scores of between 41 and 45 indicate a high risk of psychological distress and increased risk of depression. (Source: Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Data refers to England, although similar trends are seen in Scotland and Wales).

Culture, support and training

42% of school staff felt that their institution’s organisational culture had a negative effect on their wellbeing. Not surprising when only 44% of staff feel fully trusted to carry out their job by their line manager and 57% would not feel confident disclosing stress of mental health problems to their employer.

61% (54% in 2020) of school staff do not think they get sufficient guidance on wellbeing at work, with almost a quarter (24%) of staff stating that they do not have access to any form of support for dealing with wellbeing of mental health concerns, such as encouragement to speak up, counselling/coaching and self-help programmes.

74% of school staff do not think that their initial teacher training prepared them adequately for managing their own wellbeing, and 65% did not feel that initial teacher training prepared them for managing their students’ wellbeing.

What to do?

Whilst acknowledging that there is no simple answer to the issues raised in their report, Education Support’s recommendations include:

  • Prioritising a culture of wellbeing throughout the sector and removing the stigma that prevents staff from seeking appropriate early intervention,

  • Providing all staff with better training, support and access to wellbeing resources,

  • Reducing workload through considerate policy implementation and increased funding for schools.

ABC tips for teachers’ wellbeing

A - Awareness

  • Know your priorities – be clear on what is important to you, both professionally and personally, so that you can set goals and focus your energy on doing the right things at the right time.

  • Know your boundaries – your time and your energy are limited, so don’t try to do everything. Does taking on more work or responsibility align with your priorities? If not, work out how you can say “no” with conviction, reason and a constructive suggestion.

  • Know what’s in your control – you have superpowers, not omnipotence, so you probably cannot control a pandemic, DfE policies or your colleagues. Focus on the things you can control: your responses, your emotions, your health – these answer to you alone.

  • Know your stress flags – we all have our own behavioural, emotional and physical signs that tell us we are getting stressed or overwhelmed. It could be problems sleeping, over/under eating, increased irritability, over-reacting, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or skin conditions. Work out what your signs are, look out for them and take action early to avoid things getting out of control.

B - BYOBF (Be Your Own Best Friend)

  • Mental, physical and emotional care – make time to attend to the needs of your mind, body and soul on a regular basis by developing positive habits and treating yourself. Take time to recharge your mental, physical and emotional reserves by getting proper rest, eating well and doing the things you enjoy. After all, you do deserve it.

  • Stay mindful – your mind can get messy and your thoughts jumbled. Explore mindful practices such as controlled breathing, meditation, journaling and gratitude to find something that works for you so you can maintain a clear focus on the present rather than excessively dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

  • Enjoy the victories – no matter how small, every win counts. Reflect on what you accomplished, any challenges you overcame and how your contribution made a positive difference. Write these down so that you can remind yourself of your successes when things aren’t going so great.

C - Connect

  • Talk to someone – whether it’s a trusted colleague, a family member, a coach or a counsellor, talking about challenges and concerns you are facing as well as the successes and moments of joy can help you to get clarity and perspective. If you feel you are suffering from anxiety or depression, you should always speak to your GP or mental health professional.

  • Reconnect with purpose – the Teacher Wellbeing Index also noted that 77% of teachers had a clear sense of purpose when they started in the profession, and 90% of those people still felt connected with that sense of purpose. You may not always feel valued and appreciated by others, so remind yourself of the positive impact you are making in inspiring, supporting and developing future generations.

To all the Educators out there – enjoy your break, take care of yourselves, and THANK YOU.

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