Headteachers are not using a free wellbeing support service because they feel guilty spending time looking after themselves, says the charity running the government-funded scheme.
Education Support’s £760,000 programme has been extended by a year after only reaching about half of its target.
It was contracted in November 2021 to support 2,000 headteachers by March this year through six one-hour, free peer support sessions, or one-to-one support or counselling.
A “deep dive” by the charity into the low take-up found many heads felt they “simply don’t have the time and capacity to do it”, Faye McGuinness, the programme’s director, said.
But many might also believe that their mental health and wellbeing “doesn’t matter as much as everybody else’s… if we want people to take action we really need to change their beliefs”.
“Some of the stuff that has come up through our peer support work is almost a feeling of guilt of spending the time looking after themselves.”
The charity’s annual 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index showed that more than a third of senior leaders were looking to leave education, with heads at a high risk of of suffering from depression.
When the scheme was launched it was aimed at those in deputy head levels and above with no access to an employee assistance programme.
That was scrapped in June and the scheme was opened up to assistant heads in September.
From April this year college principals, their deputies and senior leaders reporting to the principal will become eligible at colleges and sixth forms.
However, the peer support route will be dropped. McGuinness said this was “very popular” at the height of the pandemic when heads “wanted to get into the room and say to each other what on earth is going on, how do we deal with this?
“We are now seeing leaders are in a space to reflect and think about the impact of the past two or three years on them personally, and how that plays out professionally.”
An evaluation of the programme is being conducted by York Consulting.
A DfE spokesperson said they encourage “all school leaders to look into the support on offer”.