Stressed to tears

stressed to tears blog

According to ATL General Secretary Mary Bousted, stressed teachers are being reduced to tears with their workload and lack of support. Mary said she was ‘silenced’ after hearing some of the stories from and about stressed teachers. She recounted a story about a partner of a school teacher who would come home from work, to find his wife crying on the kitchen floor most days due to stress from school. Dr Bousted also said about another teacher who had been given a performance objective “not to cry in the staffroom” by her line manager. The ATL secretary claimed that she didn’t know what to be more mortified about – the fact a teacher was regularly crying in the staffroom or the fact her line manager could propose such an objective without any attempt to rectify what was making her cry! Stories like this has led Dr Bousted calling on all head teachers to support their staff further, while putting pressure on the Government to reduce unnecessary workload. But will it ever happen?

Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders), believes that the whole teaching profession, from NQT’s to the senior leaders, are under considerable pressure. The ASCL secretary firmly believes that “it’s essential that we all pay attention to the well-being of staff. This is a shared responsibility between colleagues of the same level, middle leaders, senior leaders and governors, who ultimately carry the duty of care.”

Teachers are expected to work an impossible workload which often go long into the evening and take up too much of the weekend and just accept that ‘that’s the way it is in teaching’. This however cannot be the way forward. With pupil numbers in schools rocketing, teacher retention is vital. Official figures show that the country will need nearly 160,000 additional teachers over the next three years to cope with the projected rise in pupils by 2020.

A Department for Education spokesman commented on the issue by claiming that teaching currently remains a hugely popular profession, with the highest numbers of people joining since 2008. However with schools struggling to retain their current teachers this means nothing. The Department for Education spokesmen continued to say “it is vital schools have systems in place to help limit stress for staff, and provide appropriate support if needed.” But how are the DoE actually going to do this?

The teaching workload has been long talked about, however not a lot has been done. What can the government do to allow teachers to focus on what they do best – teach? It is all well and good these issues being raised again, but will anything actually be done?  Do our teachers get enough support from their head teachers, or are they left out in the cold? Have your say here…


Teaching can be one of the most stressful professions – make sure you are clued up on ways to reduce stress. For support and help go to

30 thoughts on “Stressed to tears

  1. I am a Deputy Head and regularly cry in the evenings usually after snapping at my family for something trivial that shouldn’t matter. I don’t want to work in a school anymore but don’t know how to find a way out. I used to love the job but the pressure to be better and do more is too much.

  2. I left teaching after a year of being told my lessons were inadequate, and that I wouldn’t get through Competencies.
    The previous year, in a different school, I had been consistently Good with Oustanding, and was ‘parachuted’ into the next school, which was in special measures. We couldn’t afford to run two cars, so for the whole year, I was getting up at 5am to start my 6am bus commute to the school, and would arrive home at 7pm. I’d grunt briefly at the wife and kids, eat my dinner with my work in front of me and get to bed at 1am next morning. I resigned my hard-earned TLR first, and then went through countless observations, all of which I failed.
    As an experiment, I taught my two best (Oustanding) lessons from my previous school. Surprise: they were both deemed inadequate.
    I got the message and left before they could destroy my career and health.

    It’s all very well to talk about staff well being, but in my experience, many SLT are nothing more than bullies who’ve graduated from the playground.

  3. I provide a coaching service that can help in cases like this. Having taught recently in schools myself I know exactly what is being referred to here. I offer a free, taster session so that individuals can find out if coaching is for them. If so there are flexible payment options available. Email me for more details :

    You don’t have to cope alone. Help is at hand.

  4. The answer is simple – Money! If we can invest £6billion (we are matching the Chinese, now EDF have to come up with their third) in a nuclear power station & guarantee the price paid for electricity generated, then there must be enough in the pot to build additional class rooms, employ more teachers and reduce class sizes. Result pupils get more individual attention (as they do already in the private sector); teachers are less stressed as they have a lot less marking both at home and in school due to 20-25% PPA; leadership is easier as retention is higher. Ok Nicki Morgan go talk to George.

  5. I have been thinking for some years about returning home to teach in the UK (after working in Africa, Canada, and now Switzerland). I am very homesick for Britain, but the endless horror stories about UK schools make me afraid to get into something I might not be able to get out of. I’m a highly qualified professional, and accustomed to being treated as such.

  6. Why cannot people stand up and say that it is the cursed OFSTED that is the main reason for teacher misery?
    Now I hear that schools can have a pre inspection by OFSTED – which schools have to pay for out of the education budget………
    All OFSTED lack is a uniform!

  7. Similar stories in Early Years Nursery Settings up and down the country. Massive amounts of paperwork which limits the time actually caring and delivering standards of quality basic care and attention to children requiring just that. Many Early Years Educators (Nursery Nurses),find the workload to much to deliver, hence staff retention extremely poor in many settings, sickness levels high which unfortunately has an impact on the children.

  8. It’s not only teachers, but all staff in schools and education. Nursery Nurses, Teaching Assistants, Learning Support Assistants, in fact anyone who has a role working and educating children have an enormous amount of stress piled on them now.

  9. I am an English teacher in London and I have been teaching for five years and I’ve decided that I need to leave teaching at the end of this year. I wanted to reply so you know how teachers are feeling, or at least how I am feeling; I am exhausted; I’m tired of working just to get a break to recharge.

    I love teaching; I love that moment when a kid gets it and you know you made it happen. I love delivering a lesson that I took time in planning and differentiating, when it comes together- it’s been worth it. I enjoy helping ‘my’ kids better themselves, giving them the opportunities that I didn’t have. I am an ‘outstanding’ teacher and I work excessively to maintain that title, but I’m exhausted.

    I teach 8 different sets across KS3 and KS4; 26 lessons a week and I have just 200 minutes a week allocated in my timetable to plan, differentiate and mark for those 8 classes. I work in West London and live in South-East; I get up at 4.45am and am in my classroom by 6.15. I mark books when I get in and during my morning break, I photocopy and differentiate whilst inhaling a cardboard sandwich at my desk during lunch. I take at least 5 books home every night to mark whilst eating my dinner. My friends call me a ‘boarding school kid’ because I only go out during the holidays. We need more PPA time. I counted my hours working in and out of school this week: 67 hours.

    I don’t want to retrain; I don’t want to abandon the skill set I’ve sacrificed so much for, but I’m 30 years old and I am exhausted.

  10. It’s not just teachers…. I work in the support side and just been signed off for 1 month with therapy. I have an incompetent exec head and hostile heads, making a toxic environment that nobody acknowledges is a problem, or tries to resolve.

  11. I am getting out at Christmas for this very reason. I have managed 9 years but endless and increasingly pointless data collections, staff shortages, lack of money and a very depressed and dispondant staff room have made me realise there is more to life than “WIGs”, “key marginal”students, “super key marginal” students and misery.

    Even if I end up stacking shelves it must be better than this.

  12. So Ann Bostock all we have to do is find the time and money to pay you and everything will be alright? Get out of here: you are the problem not the solution!

  13. I have never walked away from a job before and have an immaculate record in both teaching and a previous industry career. This week however I almost walked away from a profession that I have trained hard for, have enjoyed and still hope to be my long term employment. The reason is a spiralling amount of stress. I have worked in high pressure industries managing others but know that the effects of long term stress do not equal long term improvement and higher output, whatever that may be. Perhaps a new bread of teacher will be the answer, and I do not hold on to the idea that the golden days were some years ago, but is the pressure equating to improvement is the question we should ask. Certainly ‘new’ ideas, such as a double entry into exams has seen rising results, but this fails to prove the validity of a system where increased pressure on teachers is the key to an improved education system. An increasing rift between teaching staff and a management system, that often appears to idolises the practices seen on The Apprentice, do little to create the unified team of individualise who are prepared to work hard towards a common goal. My reason for wanting to walk away where simple, I no longer see the connection between the protocols in place and actual improvement. It is surely time to address some hard questions instead of resulting to increasingly hard working conditions.

  14. I think my opinion might make many feel offended. I am not British, and we have a saying: ‘People (like in ‘society’, not individual persons) always get exactly what they deserve.’ Social laws and mechanisms work at statistical overall level. For instance, the fact that my people (myself included) are so negatively seen throughout almost the entire EU is exclusively our own doing, and I simply have to admit this although it does not make me proud at all. So if the majority of the teachers agree that they are subject to a humiliating stress they really do not deserve, then you have the power to take a stand and change all this tomorrow, in the good old British tradition. On the other hand, if only a handful of people complain, and all the others comply out of cowardice, stupidity, whatever other reason or all of these together…..

  15. Teachers are leaving the UK for the UAE. Money, weather, less stress…etc. Why must teachers go through so much stress? The international exam results of students in the UK are not improving anyway. Children need to be disciplined, reduce the OFSTED drama, be flexible and allow teachers to enjoy the profession.

  16. I was one of the teachers mentioned.
    1. You must see your doctor
    2. Know exactly what is wrong with you
    3. Follow the school procedures – to the letter

    Unfortunately ….. I broke
    Never mind the Teaching Council who will show no mercy and Headteachers will go for the throat !

    My suggestion
    1. Resign
    2. Take a break
    3. Throw away those books … In the bin !!! What a feeling :)))
    4. Value life, health and who ever you have!!! Not the money or materialistic things!!!

    Do supply work… Fast income

    Look for another job!

    As mentioned 50,000 teachers will leave!

    Yes! It takes so much “grit” !
    But believe me a break down …. You will regret !

    Yes…. I can tell of much worse stories!
    But it not help

    Yes…. No one cares!!!

    I spoke to the union …. They are overwelmed with new cases every week / day….
    The teaching Council is overdrive with new business 24/7…..

    Health warning ! Like smoking !

    Yes…. After 3 years of utter despair / loss of family and humiliated …..
    Now I can sleep and have no fear!

    Please if your in dispair! Resign ! ….. There are many opportunities !!! Just look !
    But !!!
    Do not suffer !!!
    Yes!!! You are a good person ! And let no one tell you different + stand up for YOUR LIFE!

    Finally ! Cry ! Do what it takes to help you !

    Good teachers are recognised by students! When you see them in the street – they will always call you Sir or Miss with respect !!!

    Yes…. Our education system is awful – better high ranking people said it all ……. Years ago + forecast

    Yes …. New teachers in and even faster out – experience ? What is that ? Nowadays or loyalty ?

  17. I get to work at 7 and leave at 5.30 but still not coping with the work load.
    Children s behaviour is awful but we are meant to be outstanding.
    We need less contact time in order to be better prepared and less stressed. I feel like I have been under a lorry when I teach a full day.
    I used to love my job but all I do now is see if Ican find a way out.

  18. If the politicians and government would p*^%s off out of schools . life would be a whole lot better for teachers and the students would have a more rewarding time !

    I began teaching back in ’72. we didn’t have Ofsted then nor the invasion of bureaucracy like it is now. We had our problems but then it was much more a joy to teach.
    We had more autonomy and less interference. Things got sorted and organised, students passed exams,parents were mostly pleased and most of all, teachers were respected and not harassed and belittled by nerds and their rules from the State !
    I’m glad I retired in time to miss out on the rising tide of mediocrity that’s spreading now in the profession .

  19. so true education gone mad children today have no hope of homes of their own parents stress out with money worrys turn to drink drugs or dont give a hoot how their children are doing at school antisocial behaviour i have lived with neigbours 4 sets of families with social problems i have heart condition i am forever phoning police about them. children need to learn respectand life skills maths english and basic science plus all religions only with parents permission. i am only 54 but have lived in a anxious state for nearly ten years because of these familys ps i live my two children 24 20 respecfully.

  20. I had to go part time to get my life back. It means I have no money spare but I get to see my kids at evenings and weekends because I have .57 time table and a day off in the week to catch up with work. Surely that equates to .8 time table? Apparently not but I don’t care, I am no longer suicidal.

  21. We have a new Head of Department who is a psychopath. He has already hounded 3 very good members of staff out of the department by systematic victimisation. Everyone is stressed to the hilt because work just keeps being dumped on people and if they say they’re feeling overwhelmed it is seen as weakness and treated as a capability issue. A couple of the team are already nervous wrecks and are becoming ill and the rest of us will soon follow. We are all at our wits end. I didn’t come into teaching for this.

  22. When schools become academies, look out! It becomes a business and money and results are all that matter. Teachers become expendable; some other poor sucker (NQT) will always step into dead men’s shoes. Expect unannounced drop-ins which, according to pupils, feel like police raids; day-long observations, often without any feedback(so what are they observing?); being shouted at and intimidated by SLT, or totally blanked in the corridor. Then the dreaded Capability starts. 20-30 unmeasurable targets, to be met in 6 weeks. No one can prove they have been met, so no one can get off it. After 6 weeks, most people agree to take ‘gardening leave’ until the end of term and disappear overnight. Those who won’t leave get put on Formal Capability, which goes on your record, so no other school will employ them. Easiest way to get rid of staff without having to buy them out. Then they get replaced with cheaper teachers and cover supervisors! Supply through an agency is stress free, but you cannot pay a penny into your Teacher’s pension. It also does not pay sick pay, holidays or guarantee you any regular work. However, you have no planning, no meetings, no Parents’ Eve, no targets, no observations , no dreaded Ofsted and no piles of 200+ books to mark every week! You have a life!!

  23. The whole education system from the government/education secretary to the Head teachers/executive heads, SMT etc haven’t got a clue. Basically the more inept and out of touch you are the higher you climb. Those of us who are great teachers stay at the bottom and get **** on. The kids are great – they are not the problem. The whole of the education system is! Yes we need to do something but what?!

    I am willing to join any movement as I am too tired, overworked and stressed to start my own.

  24. Sulayman and Lacroze in this thread touched on the unmentionable main factor – children’s behaviour. Money will not solve that problem. Be honest – if children were respectful and obedient, you could cope with the paperwork and other BS and even the workplace bullying described by John Taylor in this thread. The biggest stress is to be treated like excrement by the smartass, overindulged young people whom you serve in the teaching service industry. Couple this with smarmy heads and deputies who are good at BS but give no support. It is fair to say that their hands are tied anyway by legislation and targets. More money has been thrown at education since 1997 than ever: new schools full of ICT equipment are all around and salaries in promoted posts compare well with what their holders could get in business.

  25. I totally agree that teaching has become more stressful. I have been teaching for 13 years and really feel that I need to get out whilst I’m still clinging to a semblance of health-just. Unfortunately I don’t know what else I can do. I’m on UPS and have a TLR (which I would like to give up but feel obliged to continue as no one else in my school wants to do it-perhaps there’s a message for me there!). I feel resentful now when I work at home at the weekends and in the holidays-I used to just do it as a matter of course but have really had enough, especially on top of a 7.30am-6.00pm day. The key reasons are OFSTED and the new initiatives that are springing up like mushrooms-(do we really want to model ourselves on Shanghai?) please can we be left to do the job that we have been trained to do? I feel that we are not trusted or respected as professionals. As for being “outstanding” well that’s just a case of the emperors new clothes, who wants to work in a school where the most important thing is the data? I thought we were here for the children?
    I really don’t know what the future holds for teaching but I suspect that many excellent teachers will leave which will be a great loss to the profession.

  26. I feel I must address Xavier’s comments. I too was a teacher for 22 years and for all of the reasons outlined above I decided to take the bold step of training to do something else. I am now in the possession of a new skills set which puts me in the position of being able to offer a service to others. I want to help teachers because I know what it’s like out there, and coaching does work. The reason I offer a free, taster session and a money back guarantee is exactly because I don’t take advantage of people in difficult circumstances. One day I will be able to give my services for free. Unfortunately, Xavier, I’m not quite there yet.

    Ann Bostock. Life Coach and Teacher

  27. I hear all these thousands of stories just like mine I was recognised as an outstanding teacher a brilliant subject leader and then I had a nervous breakdown two years ago I am still on medication many other colleagues are too why because we are hardworking and want to do the job well but the job is now impossible and depressing data targets predicted grades not set by your professional judgement and often wrong unreasonable deadlines and managers who are more interested in giving you a ticking off than supporting the children gone are the days when the head knew every childs ‘s name now they are distant ruthless bullies managing a company

  28. This time last year I was on my knees -utterly exhausted, completley stressed and feeling panicky all the time. I finally decided that enough was enough – endless paperwork, continually being told I was not doing the job properly (despite consistently receiving “Good” gradings from OFSTED), never being listened to, dealing with kids swearing, hitting and being disrespectful on a daily basis with no support from senior management,etc, etc. The only reason I stayed so long was because of the excellent TAs I worked with. I now work for a supply agency and do not spend the first day of every holiday in bed or routinely snap at my family or burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Yes, there’s no sick pay or holiday pay and I don’t have any idea how much work Iwill get week to week, but at least I have a LIFE!

  29. I finally decided (after an extremely stressful half term weighing up the pros and cons with my partner-my well being won out in the end!) that I would be brave and speak to my Head teacher about stepping down as a subject leader, I was shocked to be told that I can’t unless I resign as there is no one else in my school with the “experience” to take over so I’m stuck, I really can’t afford to resign and would be reluctant anyway as I actually enjoy the teaching part of the job, and I like the kids. Has anyone else experienced this? I have been feeling exactly like Rose and the secondary school teacher in previous comments and am beginning to wonder if I am heading for a break down- I’ve been getting migraines and they are usually at the end of the week, I keep crying for no particular reason and generally feel rubbish. I’m trying to limit the amount of work I do at home and the length of time that I spend in school but even when I do as much as I can there are always jobs that I simply cannot complete-what is the answer? Is there an answer that involves staying in the job? I am counting down until retirement but not sure that I can last another 9 years not in the current climate. Maybe Rose is right, I have done supply in the past but found it wasn’t consistent enough-mind you if everyone leaves we may all resort to doing supply and there will be lots of work available!Right its back to the data for me then-hooray for the new baseline which takes just as long as what we’ve done every year but doesn’t provide half as much of the information. Whose bright idea was that I wonder?

  30. I would love to know the amount of release time people get for their management roles? I am particularly interested in SENCOs. I keep being told that other SENCOs get about the same as me. I get 2 hours a week. Thanks

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