ResearchTeacher Wellbeing Index: New figures reveal extent of work-related stress in teaching profession

Work-related stress in the teaching profession increases for a third consecutive year.
Content Team5 years ago11 min

Published this week, the annual Teacher Wellbeing Index – conducted by the charity Education Support in partnership with YouGov – It is widely recognised as the most in-depth and robust insight into the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals. The 83-page report – now in its third edition – features a sample of 3,019 and affords the ability to track trends over time.

Key findings in 2019’s Teacher Wellbeing Index include:

  • Over one third of education professionals (34 per cent) experienced a mental health issue in the past academic year (31 per cent in 2018) with 78 per cent of all education professionals experiencing either behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work (76 per cent in 2018).
  • Senior leaders reported the highest levels of stress in 2019 (84 per cent), up from 80 per cent in 2018 and 75 per cent in 2017.
  • Rises in the stress levels of school teachers also occurred, with 73 per cent reporting being stressed in 2019, compared with 64 per cent in 2018 and 67 per cent in 2017.
  • Education professionals scored an average of 44.7 on the 14-point Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale * (a scale used to gauge the mental wellbeing of a population), a notably lower score than the general population scores of 49.85 in England [1], 49.80 in Scotland [2] and 50.9 in Wales [3].
  • Education professionals working in the West Midlands and North West England reported the highest levels of work-related stress (77 per cent and 75 per cent respectively) and the lowest Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale scores (43.6 and 43.4 respectively).
  • More than half of education professionals (57 per cent) have considered leaving the sector in the past two years due to health and wellbeing pressures, with the volume of workload (71 per cent) and not feeling valued (65 per cent) cited as the two major reasons given. There was also an increase in pupil/student behaviour given as a factor, rising from 33 per cent in 2017 to 42 per cent in 2019.

The report presents six key recommendations:

  1. Educational reforms should promote increased levels of trust and autonomy for educators, demonstrating that staff are valued. This will improve self-esteem and wellbeing across the sector, with a positive impact on recruitment, retention and pupil outcomes.
  2. Accountability systems need to continue to evolve in a way that builds teacher efficacy and development, as opposed to unproductive tension and anxiety.
  3. Overwork has become normalised across education. Healthy working practices and boundaries need to become the new, celebrated norm. With improved levels of health, teachers will be more physically and emotionally present to learners.
  4. School and college leaders must be funded (and assisted) to shape supportive, relational workplaces. Positive workplaces support better wellbeing.
  5. All senior leaders should have access to personal and peer support. Tackling the level of chronic stress reported among this group should be made a priority.
  6. Every member of staff should have access to professional and confidential emotional support, through an Employee Assistance Programme (or equivalent service). This can help resolve issues and effectively support education professionals to manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Commenting on the findings Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO at Education Support, said:

“It is time to address unproductive stress in our schools and colleges.

“Good teaching requires the highest levels of physical, social and emotional energy. That is why the mental health and wellbeing of this workforce is so critical; and why the trends we are seeing in this year’s Index present such a concerning picture.

“Our understanding of mental health and emotional development has grown over recent decades, yet we do not widely and openly acknowledge the extent of the emotional work inherent in education. The disproportionately high levels of stress reported by the workforce impede their ability to effectively nurture children and young people, including an increasing number who are vulnerable.

“Encouragingly, knowledge into the causes and impact of teacher wellbeing has grown steadily in recent years. This improved evidence base has coincided with an appetite and energy from across the sector, and among policymakers, to address the issue.

“We must harness this current enthusiasm to introduce measures that deliver meaningful and sustainable change, creating the systems, policies, conditions and support to allow teachers and school staff to flourish. It is time to take meaningful action to look after the people who look after our children and young people.”

Work in Mind has previously covered the issue of stress in the education sector and what built environment measures can be taken to support teachers – you can read about this here.

Notes on Teacher Wellbeing Index methodology

The research was conducted using an online survey of education professionals drawn from YouGov’s panel. The total sample size was 3,019 education professionals and the survey was conducted during the period 25 June to 29 July 2019. The sample included all job roles within the education profession from senior leaders through to support staff working in the early years, Primary, Secondary, Further, Adult and Vocational education sectors. This is the third large-scale survey which Education Support has conducted. In 2018 the survey was published as ‘Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018’ and previously as ‘Healthy Survey 2017: the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals in the UK.’

Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale was developed to enable the measuring of mental wellbeing in the general population and the evaluation of projects, programmes and policies, which aim to improve mental wellbeing. The 14-item scale WEMWBS has five response categories, summed to provide a single score. The items are all worded positively and cover both feeling and functioning aspects of mental wellbeing, thereby making the concept more accessible. The scale has been widely used nationally and internationally for monitoring, evaluating projects and programmes and investigating the determinants of mental wellbeing. For more information click here.

Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

Subscribe to our newsletter