Exclusive: Teachers say their poor mental health is harming pupil progress

Excessive workload is among the reasons why teachers are experiencing mental health problems, study finds

Adi Bloom

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Children’s education is suffering because of the poor mental health experienced by many teachers, according to new research.

And excessive workload and constant scrutiny are among the causes of mental ill-health among teachers, the study from the Leeds Beckett University reveals.

The study of 775 teachers shows that more than three quarters – 77 per cent – said that poor teacher mental health was having a detrimental effect on pupils’ progress.

Ninety-four per cent of those questioned by the university’s Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health said that they felt their classroom energy levels drop when suffering from poor mental health.

Almost as many – 89 per cent – said that they were less creative in the classroom during these times. And 85 per cent thought that poor mental health could adversely affect the quality of their lesson planning.

In addition, 73 per cent believed that poor mental health affected how well they explained things during lessons. And 72 per cent thought that their questioning skills during lessons suffered as a result of mental ill-health.

'I just want to get through the day'

“Teachers are human,” one of the survey respondents said. “If their mental health is affected, this will affect their day-to-day life, including relationships. So much of teaching is about relationships and patience, so this has a human impact.”

Another said: “When I'm on form, there is a buzz in the class and you can feel progress being made. If I'm unwell, depressed or stressed, then frankly I don't care as much, and just want to get through the day.”

Of all the teachers surveyed, 54 per cent said that they had experienced poor mental health. Of these, 52 per cent said that their illness had been identified by a GP.

Many reported that their mental-health issues were caused by excessive workload and constant scrutiny at work.

Professor John Glazzard, who led the research, conducted in conjunction with teaching-advice website Teachwire.net, said: “Teaching is a fantastic profession that transforms the lives of young people.”

However, he added: “The results of this survey are quite clear, and it’s time the government and school leaders took action over reducing workload.

“The government is really focused on children’s mental health, but we also need to look at the mental health of teachers.”

'Targeted support'

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Teachers play an important role in our society and there are now more teachers in our schools than ever before – 15,500 more, since 2010.

“We continue to work with teachers, unions and Ofsted to tackle unnecessary workload and challenge unhelpful practices that create extra work, which includes a programme of targeted support for schools.

“Guidance to governing bodies is clear that they have a responsibility to take work-life balance into account when managing staff. Where staff are struggling we trust headteachers to take action to tackle the causes of stress and ensure they have the support they need.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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