As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, it’s timely to consider just how healthy the education sector is when it comes to the wellbeing of all of its teachers. We have long known that teaching can be a stressful career, especially when compared with other career choices, but it can also be utterly fulfilling for those who manage to balance their work and their life outside work. But how realistic is it to expect teachers to be able to achieve this ideal?
The 2015 Health Survey undertaken by the Education Support Partnership makes for an interesting, if depressing, read. Here are just some of the main headlines…
- The Education Support Partnership described the survey as uncovering “an epidemic of mental health issues”
- 84% of those working in the education sector admitted to suffering problems
- Of those, 77% experienced stress, 60% anxiety and 38% depression
- Workload was blamed in 81% of cases
- 44% blamed the rapid pace of change in education
- 44% blamed unreasonable demands from line managers
This all paints a grim picture. In a profession that should be marked by its joy and enthusiasm as much as the sheer hard work involved, staff are clearly suffering. But dig a little deeper into the survey findings and it’s clear that this suffering is often in silence. While 64% of those in the grip of mental health problems spoke to their partner about what they were experiencing, with 51% speaking to their friends and 45% speaking to family, just 25% discussed their problems with their line manager and only 8% discussed them with HR.
We already know from other research by the Education Support Partnership that a great many teachers in the education sector (schools, FE and HE) plan to leave the profession by 2020. According to their findings, “unless more staff can be supported to stay [in the profession], the UK will need to recruit 200 teachers every single day just to keep staffing levels the same.” That’s an incredible number of teachers. And with so many citing negative reasons for leaving such as stress and workload, how can we address what needs to change?
Mental Health Awareness Week this year focused specifically on the theme of relationships. No one would deny that positive relationships can enhance lives and help to alleviate some of the stress we experience but this is particularly so in education. There are many relationships that teachers must have and in order to teach effectively, all must function positively. The degree of control we have over this outcome varies but I suspect most have experienced the negative backlash when sound working relationships break down for whatever reason. Perhaps this is an area worthy of our time when considering how we might boost retention and secure the recruitment we need in our schools, colleges and universities. After all, when a profession as people-centred as education needs to be in order to work well, we neglect relationships to our cost.
Have a healthy week!
If you have been affected by any of the themes discussed this week you can talk, in confidence, to Education Support Partnership on 08000 562 561 They are there for you 24/7 and can help with any issues, personal or professional.