In a survey of nearly 12,000 teachers by the union NASUWT, carried out from mid-December 2021 to early January 2022, 90% reported they had experienced higher levels of work-related stress over the past year, while 91% said that their job had adversely affected their mental health.
Over half – 52% – said that their workloads had been the main factor in higher stress levels, and 72% said that organising online learning for pupils had been a major contributor to worsening mental health during the pandemic.
NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said that the toll the pandemic had taken on teachers’ mental health could not continue to be “written off as collateral damage”.
“While the pandemic has been tough for everyone, teachers have been right in the eye of the storm,” he said.
“Even before Covid-19 teachers were already caught in a spiral of increasing workload and stress and the events of the last two years have turbo-charged the pressure they are under.”
Dr Roach said that “this was not inevitable” and that excessive workload should not be accepted as an “intrinsic part of the job of teaching”.
He added that schools should cut out “unnecessary bureaucracy” and give teachers more autonomy over their work.
“Establishing working conditions which support the health and wellbeing of teachers will deliver a win-win in schools’ efforts to ensure the best outcomes for pupils,” he said.
“Instead, employers and governments are fixated on heaping ever more pressure on teachers on the damaging assumption that teachers’ dedication to their pupils is unbreakable. The damaging toll on teachers’ health and wellbeing cannot continue to be written off as collateral damage.”
The survey revealed that work-related stress was having a serious impact on teachers’ wellbeing and health, with 87% reporting they were more anxious, 82% saying they had had problems sleeping, 28% reportedly increasing their use of alcohol and 10% saying they had had a relationship breakdown.
Over four in five teachers said they did not believe Government policies help schools respond to the mental health needs of teachers.
The majority – 98% – said they did not believe the inspection system takes teachers’ mental health and wellbeing into account when assessing schools.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful for the efforts of teachers and school leaders over the course of the pandemic, supporting pupils through the challenges faced over the last two years.
“We have taken a wide range of action to support the wellbeing of staff in education.
“This includes investing £760,000 in a new mental health support scheme for school leaders, and launching the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter, which commits to reducing unnecessary teacher workload, championing flexible working and improving access to wellbeing resources.”
According to recent figures around one in 25 people in the UK working in social care, teaching and education were likely to have been self-isolating because of Covid-19 at the end of last month, new figures show.