Tackling stress in our schools
Almost three quarters of staff working in schools and colleges describe themselves as stressed, a figure which rises to 84% for senior leaders. These statistics have increased in the last three years.
For the third year, Education Support has produced a report summarising the mental health and wellbeing of professionals working in education.
Across a wide range of measures, most mental health and wellbeing indicators have not changed in the last year, showing that despite more attention on these areas this is not yet translating to improved results for school and college staff. However, it is the results around workforce stress which is most concerning.
The biggest link to feeling stressed is working long hours, especially when working over 60 hours a week, but even those working under 40 hours a week are still more likely than not to report feeling stressed. This could be because they are always thinking about work. Sadly, around three quarters of educational professionals report not being able to switch off and relax.
Workload was citied as the main reason for 71% of staff considering leaving their work. Unsurprisingly, the survey suggests that staff retention and staff levels are linked.
What can be done?
The report makes a few recommendations:
- Reducing workload to a manageable level would be a big help. For several years the DfE have produced guidance around how schools and colleges can do this. This will also require leadership – both to model the change and to manage the tensions which will exist when activities are delayed or cut altogether.
- Those working in education need to feel like, and be treated as, professionals. This means having autonomy and trust to do their job. Professionals are held to account in a humane way, with a focus on development, successes and recognition.
- Schools and college staff should work in positive and productive institutions, with effective peer support and additional support mechanisms on hand for when they are needed. Staff struggling with mental health challenges should never feel alone.
Written by Dean Johnstone