The pupil-wellbeing crisis in UK schools is filtering through to teachers, as growing numbers of trainees turn up with “severe” mental health problems, it was revealed today.
Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), said cuts to pupil support have created a new generation of troubled teachers.
“One of the things that concerns me greatly…is that we’re seeing increasingly within teacher training the trainee teachers themselves presenting with increasing mental health issues,” she told a breakout panel at the Mental Health in Education conference.
“The cuts at that stage are now coming through to us,” she said, noting that 78 per cent of child and adolescent mental health service referrals were turned away during the period in which current trainees were pupils.
“Teacher training is a very intense year, and they’re going back into schools and they’re presenting with quite severe mental health issues…These are people being asked to look after the mental health of the children in their care.”
Tamsin Ford, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at University of Exeter Medical School, likened the situation to putting your own life mask on first on an aeroplane.
“I don’t think we need to train teachers to be counsellors, but I do think they need [to develop] their own life skills in recognising their own mental states and their own triggers of stress,” she said.
Professor Ford cited studies showing what she said were “staggering rates of depression” among both primary and secondary school teachers.
“It’s a bit like when you go on an aeroplane and they say put your own oxygen mask on first," she explained. "We need to help our teachers look after themselves.”
A study by the Education Support Partnership, published late last year, found almost a third of teachers had experienced mental health problems in the past academic year.
Another study by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families found nearly two-thirds of teachers said workload and accountability measures caused them stress.
The organisation has called on schools to do more for the mental health of their staff and has created a toolkit to help schools offer better support.