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Exclusive: 35% rise in teachers calling helpline for emotional support

A secondary school teacher tells phoneline she 'became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of a class'

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A secondary school teacher tells phoneline she 'became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of a class'

The number of teachers turning to a helpline for emotional support has increased by more than a third in just a year.

The Education Support Partnership (ESP) said 3,136 teachers contacted its confidential helpline between April 2017 and March 2018, compared with 2,321 in the previous 12-month period.

One secondary school teacher, identified only as Victoria, said: “I became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of a class. I stepped into my classroom and instantly knew I couldn't be there... I just broke down in tears. I couldn't explain it.

“The next day arrived and I didn't want to go back. I knew that if I didn't speak to someone, I would never go back to work. So I called the helpline.

“I can honestly say that the support I received from the Education Support Partnership has kept me in teaching. Without that first phone call, I can guarantee I would have left teaching. I would never have had the strength to see a doctor and take time off to get myself back on track.”

In the same 12-month period there was a 24 per cent rise in calls from headteachers and deputy heads.

Teachers 'at crisis level'

The findings follow concerns raised by the NASUWT teachers’ union over Easter about a mental ill-health “pandemic” facing the profession.

The free ESP helpline is available to all teachers, lecturers and staff in education – primary, secondary, further and higher – in England, Scotland and Wales.

The calls from those describing themselves as teachers were among 8,668 cases managed over the year.

Of these, workplace stress was the biggest reason for calling, in 2,681 cases, followed by 1,029 calls that were related to work performance issues.

Julian Stanley, chief executive of the ESP, said: “The majority of those accessing our support are doing so at a late stage; once they have reached a crisis level. This can and should be avoided.

“School leaders, governors, teachers and support staff themselves must work to end the continuing stigma that exists about seeking support at the earliest possible sign of poor mental health and wellbeing. It is not easy for teachers to do this unless the environment they work in is supportive and understanding.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The education secretary has said his top priority is making sure teaching continues to be one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. We are working with the unions and Ofsted to tackle unnecessary workload so that teachers can focus on what matters in the classroom, and we’re investing in their professional development and career progression.

“Teachers and school staff have a right to be safe while doing their jobs and any form of misconduct, including harassment towards them is completely unacceptable. We expect all schools to have procedures in place to support staff dealing with issues like this."

To access ESP’s confidential and free helpline call 08000 562 561. If you are a school, college or university that would like a staff wellbeing consultant to visit your workplace, click here.

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