More than half of school support staff experience stress, anxiety or depression, research finds

3rd May 2016 at 00:01
Union warns of 'crisis in health and wellbeing' in schools

More than half of school support staff have experienced stress, anxiety or depression amid heavy workloads, research by Unison has found.

A survey by the union, published this morning, suggests that 52 per cent of UK school support staff have experienced stress, anxiety or depression and 42 per cent said they had difficulty in completing their work.

Some 13 per cent said they found it impossible to manage all that was being asked of them.

The union has warned of a “crisis in health and wellbeing engulfing schools” and said this could lead to a “mass exodus of hard-working, dedicated staff”.

Almost half of support staff (47 per cent) said they were considering leaving their jobs, citing issues such as low pay, stress and huge workloads.

'It is making staff depressed'

Many said it was difficult to talk about the pressures of their jobs, with two-fifths (40 per cent) saying they felt unable to report concerns about the size of their workload to managers.

Respondents to the survey reported instances of teaching assistants regularly taking on extra work because schools were frequently understaffed.

One said: “Staff cuts are at a dangerous level. People are off sick due to stress because there aren’t enough staff. Teaching assistants are taking on teaching roles on a regular basis.”

Another said: “Classrooms are strained – every single teaching assistant is doing far more than they are paid for. They are covering classes constantly with no support – it is making people depressed.”

Unison’s head of education, Jon Richards, said: “It’s shocking that more than half of the UK’s school support staff are now experiencing stress, anxiety or depression because they are being given way too much to do.

“These are dedicated professionals, but with too few of them employed for the amount of work that has to be done, schools are increasingly relying on the goodwill of staff.

“Teaching assistants are putting in nearly four hours of unpaid overtime each week, and with increasing cuts in school support staff numbers, the situation can only get worse."

Unison is calling on the government to establish a national initiative with unions and employers to come up with recommendations for schools to reduce workload pressure on support staff.

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