Four in five teachers say job has affected their mental health during pandemic

School teacher
School teacher (PA Archive)
0:01am, Sat 03 Apr 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Nearly four in five teachers feel their job has adversely affected their mental health during the pandemic, a survey has suggested.

More than one in four (27%) teachers whose jobs have had a negative impact on their mental or physical health over the past year have seen a doctor or medical professional about the issues, the poll found.

Ministers must recognise that teacher wellbeing needs to be addressed to be able to deliver the recovery programme for pupils affected by school closures, according to the NASUWT teaching union.

A survey of more than 4,700 NASUWT members found 79% feel their job has adversely affected their mental health in the past 12 months.

Of these, 48% said uncertainty about safety in their school during the pandemic was a key factor.

Nearly one in four (23%) have taken medication to help them cope and 12% have undergone counselling, according to the teaching union poll.

The findings were revealed as the NASUWT teaching union conference entered its second day. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and shadow education secretary Kate Green will deliver speeches at the virtual conference on Saturday.

It is the first time in five years that an education secretary has addressed the NASUWT teaching union conference.

On Saturday afternoon, delegates are due to debate a motion on the impact of Covid-19 on the metal health of teachers and their pupils.

More than four in five (81%) of survey respondents said they have experienced more work-related stress over the past year and almost half (48%) said the job has adversely affected their physical health.

Teachers have been balancing remote lessons and in-person teaching due to Covid-19 disruption.

When asked about their experiences of stress this year, one respondent said: “Managing my own family with the increased workload of remote learning as well as in the classroom learning was ridiculous.

“I was working two jobs. My mental health suffered, my family’s mental health suffered. I considered leaving the profession.”

These figures are truly shocking and starkly illustrate the significant impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and school staff

Another said they had felt “powerless” and concerned about their health and their family’s health due to the knowledge that some pupils’ families had breached Covid-19 rules.

The survey suggests 87% have experienced anxiousness and 79% have suffered from loss of sleep in the last 12 months because of their work.

It found 30% have increased their alcohol usage, 7% have suffered a relationship breakdown and 2% have self-harmed in the past year due to their job.

One teacher said: “The lack of consultation with the teaching profession from this government is shocking. It has led to poor decision-making in reopening schools which has dramatically increased my work-related stress.

“It is extremely difficult to stay in teaching in England because of the lack of respect shown to the profession and I am truly surprised anyone still wants to join the profession at present.”

Addressing the conference on Friday, NASUWT president Phil Kemp said statutory provision of schools-based counselling in every primary and secondary school in England is “more than needed in a post-Covid world”.

He said: “Mental Health Awareness Week falls in May this year. But for those living with anxiety or depression, phobias or eating disorders, to complex personality disorders, every day is a mental health day.

“Teachers see these struggles in their pupils day in, day out. They may themselves be struggling. Knuckling down and just getting on with it. It is not a good enough strategy.

“I hope that by the end of 2021 conference, NASUWT can help be part of the solution.”

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “These figures are truly shocking and starkly illustrate the significant impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and school staff.

“It has led to a huge increase in workload and while the profession has responded with remarkable agility and professionalism, Covid-19 and the impacts on working have had a detrimental effect on teachers’ physical and mental health.

“Ministers and school employers must recognise that to deliver the programme of education recovery vital for the nation’s children and young people, teacher wellbeing has to be recognised.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: “The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to all areas of life but we have acted swiftly at every turn to help minimise the impact on pupils’ education and provide extensive support for schools and their teachers and staff.

“Our £8 million Wellbeing for Education Return programme is supporting staff in schools and colleges to respond to any wellbeing issues they or their colleagues may be experiencing.

“We have also invested over £2 billion into ambitious catch-up plans and schemes to provide pupils with devices for remote education – with funding targeted at disadvantaged children and young people who need support the most.”

Sign up to our newsletter