Schools

Three-quarters of school staff stressed, report warns

Senior leaders were more likely to report feeling stressed, with more than four in five doing so

Senior leaders were more likely to report feeling stressed, with more than four in five doing so

29 Nov 2022, 5:00

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Overall stress levels among school staff, including teachers and teaching assistants, have increased compared to 2021

Three-quarters of all school staff are stressed, new research has found, with symptoms of burnout and depression on the rise for some roles.

Findings from the teacher wellbeing index 2022, carried out by the charity Education Support, show a three percentage point increase in the number of education staff who described themselves as stressed since 2021.

Last week, Schools Week exclusively revealed how more than a third of senior leaders had told the annual survey they were actively looking to leave the sector.

While 75 per cent of all education staff said they were stressed, levels differed by job role.

Senior leaders continued to experience the greatest stress – with 84 per cent describing themselves as stressed.

But levels increased from 2021 among school teachers, rising three percentage points to 72 per cent of all teachers saying they were stressed, and among support staff, a rise of eight percentage points to 68 per cent.

Education Support said the figures demonstrated a “saturation of stress at all levels of the school workforce”.

‘Whole school approach’ needed to tackle declining mental health

Commenting on the findings, Place2Be, a children’s mental health charity that works in schools, encouraged a “whole school approach” to wellbeing given a comparative rise in issues among pupils.

Earlier this year, the number of children and young people being treated for mental health problems a month reached a record high of 400,000, according to NHS data.

“School leaders, teachers and support staff play a crucial role in supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing and when we get this right, the whole school community thrives,” Place2Be’s CEO, Catherine Roche, said. 

“We can only help children to achieve their full potential if the adults around the children are also in a good place.”

The latest teacher wellbeing index, which covers the 2021-22 academic year, is also set against a backdrop of increasing recruitment and retention challenges in the sector, tightened budgets and ongoing Covid recovery.

Responses came from 3,082 staff across primaries, secondaries, sixth-form and further education colleges, early years and adult education settings.

Those working in secondaries and primaries were most likely to report being stressed – at 79 per cent and 78 per cent respectively. 

Symptoms of mental health issues are on the rise among staff

Meanwhile, though the number of staff reporting experiencing a mental health issue dropped by seven percentage points on 2021 to 36 per cent this year, symptoms of poor mental health actually increased.

Half, or 50 per cent, of all staff said they had experienced insomnia or difficult sleeping.

Another 44 and 41 per cent reported difficulties with concentrating and forgetfulness respectively.

Asked if they felt, or it had been suggested to them, that their symptoms were a sign of burnout, 28 per cent of all respondents agreed. 

This was most common among senior leaders – including heads, deputies and assistants – with 37 per cent reporting their symptoms as burnout, a rise of five percentage points on 2021.

The figure also increased by five percentage points among school teachers, with 27 per cent reporting signs of burnout.

Nearly two-thirds of school staff considered leaving in 2021-22

Separately, 27 per cent of overall respondents said they felt, or it had been suggested, that their symptoms of poor mental health were a sign of depression. 

When their scores were measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), 35.5 per cent of education staff were found to have a score of 40 or below, which indicates probable depression. 

The average wellbeing score for England’s population is 52.40.

Declining mental health could also make matters worse in terms of staff retention. Nearly two-thirds, or 59 per cent, of all staff said they had considered leaving the education sector in 2021-22.

Of those, 55 per cent said they had actively sought to change their current job in the same timeframe. 

Schools Week previously reported that the average wellbeing score among senior leaders stood at 43.37 in 2021-22, the lowest in four years. 

A Department for Education spokesperson said it had taken action to support the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and school leaders, including through a counselling scheme delivered by Education Support.

“We have also launched the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter, which commits to reducing unnecessary teacher workload, champions flexible working and improves access to wellbeing resources,” they added.

“Alongside this, we are investing an extra £2 billion into our schools next year and the year after. This will be the highest real terms spending on schools in history totalling £57.3 billion by 2024/25.”

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