Huge rise in teachers welling up at work

Reasons for increased stress in schools include workload, teachers not feeling valued and a rise in poor pupil behaviour, research finds

teacher tearfulness

Work-related stress in the teaching profession has increased for the third year in row, with sharp rises in tearfulness, insomnia and irritability among teachers and school leaders, research shows.

The number of teachers who said they were tearful at least once during the past academic year has increased from 29 per cent in 2018 to 44 per cent in 2019, while the number who had difficulty sleeping rose from 38 per cent to 52 per cent.

This year’s Teacher Wellbeing Index, produced by the charity Education Support in partnership with YouGov, also shows that the number of educational professionals reporting difficulty concentrating rose form 27 per cent last year to 42 per cent this year.


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And it blames a combination of workload, not feeling valued and increase in poor pupil behaviour among the key reasons.

The charity has called for changes, including that the government promotes greater levels of trust and autonomy for teachers which, it says, would improve self-esteem and wellbeing.

It is also calling for the accountability system to evolve in a way that “builds teacher efficacy and development, as opposed to unproductive tension and anxiety”.

Chief executive Sinéad McBrearty said: “Good teaching requires the highest levels of physical, social and emotional energy. That is why the mental health and wellbeing of this workforce is so critical; and why the trends we are seeing in this year’s index present such a concerning picture.

 “Our understanding of mental health and emotional development has grown over recent decades, yet we do not widely and openly acknowledge the extent of the emotional work inherent in education.”

A total of  73 per cent of classroom teachers reported being stressed in this year's research, compared with 64 per cent in 2018 and 67 per cent in 2017, according to the report, which is published tomorrow.

With senior leaders, a total of 84 per cent said they were stressed this year, up from 80 per cent in 2018, and 75 per cent in 2017.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said around 40 per cent of secondary school teachers were  leaving the profession within five years of qualifying, and referred to teaching as a  "highly anxious" profession. 

She said: “Unfortunately I’m not surprised by these findings, and I think the factors which have caused them are numerous. Teachers are working too long, in highly stressed conditions without enough job satisfaction – and that creates endemic and systemic anxiety.

“The poor retention rates make the job even worse for those who stay because they have lost experienced colleagues.”

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