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Education Staff Health Survey 2014 report
Three in five people working in education say their work performance has suffered as a result of mental health problems, according to research by Teacher Support Network Group.
88% of people working in education have suffered from stress
Just 8% said they have a wellbeing policy at work that is implemented
89% said that workload was the main cause of their mental health issues
13% left their job as a result
Education Staff Health Survey 2014
An overwhelming majority of the education workforce have experienced a common mental health condition in the last two years.
88% said they suffered from stress, 72% anxiety and 45% had depression
60% said their work performance suffered and 70% said they lost confidence as a result
This led to 27% taking time off work while 13% quit their job
A large majority of 89% blamed excessive workloads for their ill health while more than half cited rapid pace of change (54%) and unreasonable demands from managers (53%) as other key factors. Overall, 80% of teachers, lecturers and support staff said their mental health would improve if managers worked with staff to reduce workload.
Teacher Support Network Group’s Education Staff Health Survey 2014 polled 2,463 people working in schools, colleges and universities across the UK in September.
Julian Stanley, Chief Executive of Teacher Support Network Group, said: “These results show how poor mental health at work is destroying the quality of teaching. A significant number of staff are taking time off sick while others who remain at work demonstrate how ill health affects their confidence and performance in the classroom or lecture hall.
“How can teachers, lecturers and support staff be able to focus on raising education standards when they are suffering as a result of unsustainable workloads and poor support from managers? Our research already shows there could be a link between a teacher’s health and their students’ outcomes. We need government and school leaders to understand how important it is to ensure our teaching staff are mentally and physically fit.
“As Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said last week, we do not want our children to be taught by teachers who are too tired, too stressed and too anxious to do the job well.”
Widespread symptoms reported included problems sleeping (86%), headaches (67%) and lack of concentration (60%).
Just 8% of people polled said a wellbeing policy at work was always implemented. The results suggested that such policies are effective with individuals working in an environment where staff health and wellbeing was carefully monitored reported significantly lower levels of mental health conditions: those suffering from anxiety fell by more than a third to 49%, stress dropped to 75% and depression to 31%.
Comparison to 2008 school results
We asked 882 teachers the same questions in our Schools Health Survey in 2008. This survey only polled those working in primary and secondary schools, which we have compared to the 1,538 school responses to our 2014 survey.
Levels of common mental health conditions reported have increased over the six year period. Stress was reported by 91% this year compared to 87% in 2008, anxiety rose from 67% and depression from 43%. Symptoms were slightly less widespread six years ago, but problems sleeping (83%), headaches (63%), mood swings (52%) and lack of concentration (54%) were still the most highly reported side-effects. Levels of physical ill health, mental health, confidence and work performance varied for 2008 in comparison to this year’s results.
The results shows workload has become a greater issue in schools over the last six years rising from 78% in 2008 to an overwhelming majority of 91% this year.
It appears staff have become more aware of their increasing workloads and how this could be managed by school leaders. Just over two thirds (67%) of teachers said their mental health would improve if managers worked with staff to reduce workload in 2008 rising to four in five (80%) this year. The number of people reporting a staff wellbeing policy at works is always implemented slipped from 10% to 8% over the last six years. However, more people (31%) reported taking time off sick in 2008 compared to 28% this year, while slightly more decided to quit their job (12% six years ago rising to 16% this year).
A-level psychology teacher Graham Calvert, 49, of London, quit his job as head of department after suffering work-related depression.
“I had three episodes of depression between 2011 and 2013. It was primarily related to the teaching environment and things that happened to me at work would build up over time,” he said.
“The first time I was diagnosed, my doctor said this is clearly reactive depression and it was definitely work that was bringing it on. There was nothing going on in my personal life at the time. It made me feel anxious and because I was so tired all the time I wasn’t able to sleep properly.”
A university lecturer in primary education, 55, from Yorkshire, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s just a very unhealthy place to work. I’ve got psoriatic arthritis in my joints which is rheumatic and my GP has said this could definitely be linked to stress.
“The HR department and managers often say it’s you not coping with stress rather than thinking it’s more to do with how work is organised and changes are implemented. If they informed, consulted, negotiated and involved staff things wouldn’t escalate. It would give you time to manage stress.
“I’m always working at the weekend. I’m more tired than I used to be, it affects my concentration levels, sleeping and eating patterns. We often don’t have time for a break at work. It’s a general malaise.”
A sixth form science teacher from North of England, who asked not to be named, was signed off work from May until September this year with ME. She said: “I suspect work may have triggered it. Three months before I physically collapsed because of stress at school. I was physically shaking after some lessons.
“I knew I was stressed but I knew this wasn’t normal. I spoke to my line manager but she said everyone is struggling, it’s hard in the run up to Ofsted, it’s normal. There is a lack of knowledge in schools about what is a normal level of health. I was signed off six weeks before the exams. I wasn’t there at that important time and it does affect the students’ learning.”
A primary school teacher from Greater London, who asked not to be named, was signed off sick with a double chest infection in December 2012.
She said: “I love teaching and hate it in equal measure. I work 65 hours a week, I’m always tired and stressed out. It took me months to recover from the double chest infection. I was constantly under the weather and that’s when I got eczema. My doctor said he should give me a prescription for a new job. He said all my illnesses are down to stress.
“I also have IBS and take 10 different tablets every day for all my medical problems. My general health is low. My dermatology flares up when I’m stressed, I have problems sleeping and it’s shocking how low my energy levels are.”
A lecturer in child care at a London FE college, who asked not to be named, said: “Last year I had a month off work because I couldn’t cope with the stress. It’s not the teaching – it’s a relief to get in the classroom – it’s the ticking boxes, it’s the relentless paperwork. We’ve been getting ready for inspections for three years.
“There’s not enough time here in the day to do the planning, I have to do it at home after my daughter, who has just started her GCSEs, has gone to bed. I work until 1.30am then I’m getting up at 6.30am the next day. It’s so far gone from what you need to do as a teacher.
“Everybody is getting stressed about it, people are off on long-term sick leave and there’s no one to go to. The management are not really interested in the welfare of teachers. It’s like a factory production line and managers are more interested in getting bums on seats.”
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