‘Struggling’ teachers need more mental health support

Teachers face increasing stress levels but have 'little opportunity' to receive care or support for their mental health

Tes Reporter

‘Struggling’ teachers need more mental health support

There is a potentially "damaging" lack of mental health support available for teachers in Scotland, a charity has warned.

Teachers face increasing stress levels but there is "little opportunity" for them to receive care or support for their mental health, according to Barnardo's Scotland.

In a paper looking at mental health and wellbeing in education, the charity argues teachers should have access to similar support to other sectors who work with children, describing the gap between professions as "stark".

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The report asks: "If teachers are struggling with their own mental health, how can they be expected to support the children who rely on them the most?"

It adds: "In ongoing internal consultation with Barnardo's Scotland practitioners working in schools throughout 2018-19, a key issue highlighted was a lack of any form of professional supervision or dedicated time for reflective practice for teaching staff in relation to their own mental health and wellbeing.

"This was identified as problematic in the current climate where educators are doing more now than they have ever done to support children and young people experiencing emotional distress and the external pressures on all staff are increasing."

Dr Adam Burley, a consultant clinical psychologist who worked on the report, said: "The paper describes a staff group who are experiencing high levels of stress with little opportunity or place to have it recognised or cared for.

"It is the person with the highest level of contact with the child – the teacher – that typically receives the lowest level of clinical supervision."

The charity called for more support for education workers, where staff are supporting children and young people "with complex needs and vulnerabilities."

Barnardo's Scotland director Martin Crewe said: "What we hear consistently, raised by our frontline staff working with schools, is the gap in the provision of structural support for teaching staff around their own mental health and well-being.

"When compared with the supervision structures in other sectors, such as health and social care, this gap is stark.”

Mr Crewe added: "Where we are present in schools, we are often called upon informally to provide support, containment and regulation to teaching staff because there is a lack of any more formal structures."

The report cites the Education Support Partnership Teacher Wellbeing Index, published in 2018, which found that 67 per cent of education professionals describe themselves as stressed, a figure which rises to 80 per cent when senior leaders were included in the statistics.

Of the teachers surveyed, 65 per cent said they would not feel confident in disclosing mental health problems or unmanageable stress to their employer, while 43 per cent said pupil behaviour was to blame.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are clear that no teacher should feel that their job adversely affects their mental health.

"We have undertaken a range of actions to address conditions that affect wellbeing and enhance the working environment for teachers, including reducing teacher workload, acting to simplify the curriculum framework and remove unnecessary bureaucracy.

"In addition, the recent pay deal provides certainty on pay and sets a shared agenda on addressing workload, which contributes to strengthening the working environment for teachers."

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