Exclusive: One in seven teachers ‘on the brink’

Tes survey reveals how school staff are struggling to cope during the Covid pandemic

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus and teacher wellbeing: A Tes survey has revealed the stress that teachers are under

Less than a month into the new term, nearly half of teachers are “drained and exhausted” while a third are “just about coping” and 15 per cent are “physically and mentally on the brink”, a Tes survey reveals.

The survey, carried out this week among teaching staff across the UK, found that just 10 per cent were “completely fine” while only 1 per cent said “I feel great”.

One schools leader told Tes: “We’re in a climate where everyone is on edge and stressed out and worried the whole time. If I’m still in this job by Christmas, I’m going to be amazed. I’ve had enough.”

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“I have arguments with parents that Covid-19 is a hoax and masks shouldn’t be expected, and then just as many parents ask 'why have you even got the school open?' and 'how dare you expect my child to come in?'

“I’ve got staff off either because they’re poorly or self-isolating or they’ve got childcare issues, and that breaks relationship with the pupils.

“The number one thing that works with my pupils is relationships and all of a sudden that English teacher or that maths teacher or that head of year is not there any more, and now they’ve got a new face, but they haven’t got the relationship.”

Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support, the charity which supports teacher wellbeing, said the Tes survey results were “unsurprising” and that the charity's own survey, published last week, revealed that half of teachers suffered a decline in their mental health during the first stage of the pandemic.

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She said: “This has been further compounded by the stress and anxiety caused by the lack of a reliable Covid testing system.  Schools are left to pick up the pieces whilst staff and students are forced to self-isolate and wait for a golden ticket to a test appointment. 

“Schools have not been adequately resourced to do what has been asked of them. The assumption that school staff can just continue to pick up the pieces might work in the short term, but it is hardly the ground on which to build a recovery.

"If we are reckless with the health of the education workforce, we cannot expect children and young people to have the support they need to get through this difficult year.” 

Last week the Chartered College of Teaching also warned that teachers and schools leaders were “exhausted”.

It said the main concerns were around the availability of Covid testing, staff and pupil absences, and uncertainty regarding disruption to next year's exams.

Meanwhile, a total of 7,582 school staff, including teachers, teaching assistants and senior leaders, answered the Tes survey question, which asked: “Which of the following best describes your own health and wellbeing this term?” Answers included six options from “I feel physically and mentally on the brink” to “I feel great” (see chart below).


Another teacher told Tes: “I woke up today thinking it was Friday [but it’s Thursday]. One of the most tiring things is constantly having to remember to social distance around school.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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Tes Reporter

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