Teacher wellbeing has reached its lowest level in five years, with stress, insomnia and burnout all continuing to rise and working in schools “unsustainably demanding”, a new survey has found.
Education Support’s 2023 teacher wellbeing index found worsening wellbeing among England’s school staff, with rates for teachers at their lowest levels since 2019 and now below that of senior leaders.
The overall wellbeing score was 43.44, a 0.47 decrease from 2022. This is well below the national average of 51.40.
Education Support, a teacher wellbeing charity, said scores between 41 and 45 should be considered “at high risk of psychological distress and increased risk of depression”.
The annual survey also found 78 per cent of 3,000 staff across the United Kingdom are stressed, which rises to 95 per cent among headteachers. Teachers had the highest increase in stress, up six percentage points in 2022.
More than a third (36 per cent) reported experiencing burn-out, up nine per cent on last year. Half of staff experienced insomnia or difficulty sleeping, a six percentage point rise.
The report also found that 75 per cent of staff in England thought Ofsted inspections were not fit for purpose while 73 per cent said it impacted negatively on their mental health.
Sinéad Mc Brearty, the charity’s chief executive, said the workforce is “stressed and unhappy at work,” adding: “Working in schools and colleges is unsustainably demanding and not improved by the level of mistrust the profession has in the inspection process.”
Teachers are more stressed
Education Support uses the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) to determine a wellbeing score for teachers in England.
Teachers’ wellbeing score rose slightly last year to 43.90 but is now 42.87. Senior leaders’ wellbeing has risen slightly in the last year, from 43.27 to 43.62. Both are below pre-pandemic levels.
Support staff scores are slightly above pre-pandemic at 44.62. However, these are all still below the national average.
Across the UK, 78 per cent of education staff reported being stressed, up three per cent on last year.
Thirty nine per cent experienced a mental health issue in the last academic year, the highest since the question was first asked in 2018.
More than half (55 per cent) said their institution’s organisational culture has a negative effect on their wellbeing, a rise of 13 percentage point. For school teachers alone, it rose 16 percentage points to 59 per cent.
However, more staff (47 per cent up from 41 per cent) felt they were well supported by their organisation. Staff in the north east, West Midlands and north west feel least supported.
Fifteen per cent of education staff always or often felt lonely at work, which is twice the national average.
The charity said it was “deeply concerned” about the five per cent of staff that experienced acute stress, burnout and loneliness.
A combination of these factors pointed to an “elevated mental health risk” which includes “an indicative elevated suicidal risk factor”.
They said suicide prevention must be prioritised with “urgent work” to reduce the risk factors.
Education Support also called for investment in “soft leadership skills” to support leaders’ development of social, emotional and behavioural skills “that matter so much for organisational cultures”.
Ofsted ‘not fit for purpose’
For the first time, Education Support has asked education staff about the impact of inspections on their mental health.
They found 73 per cent disagreed with the statement that inspections improved student achievement and 59 per cent did not believe the probes viewed teachers positively.
Ofsted has come under fierce pressure following Ruth Perry’s death last year. The watchdog has since made a series of changes to its inspection programme.
Education Support called for an “overhaul” to improve “trust, legitimacy and the perceived fairness” of inspections.
Inspectors should be “trained and supported to understand the relationship between professional identity, stress, burnout and mental health and equipped to handle inspection with due care and empathy”.
Professor Julia Waters, Perry’s sister, called for “urgent action to address the mental health crisis in education”.
An Ofsted spokesperson said they “aim for all our inspections to be carried out professionally and sensitively, with careful regard for their impact on school staff.
“After every inspection, no matter the outcome, we ask schools whether they believe the inspection will help them improve. Nine out of ten say it will. We work constructively with schools, in the best interests of their pupils ”
Education Support runs a confidential helpline for education staff and teachers – call 08000 562 561.