A third of teachers have Covid-19 mental health fears

New poll reveals heightened stress and anxiety of teachers amid school closures and online learning during pandemic 

teacher mental health

Just over a third of teachers are currently stressed and anxious about their mental health and wellbeing, according to a YouGov survey.

The survey of 820 teachers and senior leaders found that stress levels were higher than normal for the start of summer term, with 59 per cent of primary teachers and 49 per cent of secondary teachers currently experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety than usual.

In total, 49 per cent of respondents said they were experiencing stress and anxiety over fear of themselves or their family catching the coronavirus, while 35 per cent of teachers were experiencing heightened stress and anxiety as a result of preparing work for pupils to complete at home.

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Sinéad McBrearty, CEO of teacher wellbeing charity Education Support, which commissioned the research, said more than half of calls to the charity’s helpline were related to the coronavirus.

She said: “We are hearing from those in distress about their schools and their students, about their own health and that of their families, as well as the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus in the school environment.

“Speculation about an early return to physical school sites, and concern about a lack of consultation from policymakers is fuelling further anxiety. Educators want to be back with their pupils and students, but want that return to be safe, planned and properly supported.

“Educators tell us that they feel disorientated, and they recognise that Covid-19 has an uneven impact on communities, families and children.”

The findings included:

  • 34 per cent of teachers were currently stressed and anxious about their mental health and wellbeing as well as that of their families.
  • 43 per cent of secondary teachers said “the exam process” was causing stress, compared with 5 per cent in primary schools.               
  • 31 per cent of primary and 19 per cent of secondary school teachers reported higher levels of stress and anxiety caused by supporting families who might need emotional and/or financial support.
  • 44 per cent said they were stressed and anxious by the ongoing uncertainty about what may happen during the summer term and 46 per cent were worried about what may happen in the new school year.

One primary teacher said: “I am never anxious about returning to school after the holidays. I am anxious now because everything is uncertain, we are in danger of dying from a pandemic and I don’t know what we are going to do to cope and support our students.”

A primary headteacher said: “We will be on tenterhooks not knowing what the government plans to do next and how much notice we’ll get for the children returning to school. Schools closing was far more stressful than it needed to be. We were having to change plans daily as information was drip-fed.”

A senior leader said: “Continuous work since January. Tired, not sleeping properly. Strange dreams. Drained, trying to support and be upbeat for everyone else.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We understand this is a very difficult time for school leaders, teachers and other school staff, and we are enormously grateful for all they are doing to keep children safe during this challenging time.

“Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has not set a date for schools reopening and they will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, until the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to re-open and we have met the five tests set out by Government to beat this virus.

“We are also working in close consultation with the sector as we consider how to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right, and will ensure everyone has sufficient notice to plan and prepare.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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