Updated: Sunday, 5th April 2020 @ 10:41am

Teaching time-bomb: 'Punishing workloads' to blame for teachers' mental health crisis, says union chief

Teaching time-bomb: 'Punishing workloads' to blame for teachers' mental health crisis, says union chief

| By Tim Hyde

‘Punishing’ workloads are causing the number of teaching staff experiencing mental health issues to sky-rocket and may lead to a teaching crisis, a union official revealed to MM.

More than a third (38%) of teachers believe they have seen a rise in the number of colleagues suffering from mental health issues in the last two years, the study reveals. 

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) conducted the research which delved into the affects working in education had on teachers and will be sharing their findings at their annual conference in Manchester this week.

The poll revealed a number of startling facts including that 55% of teachers have claimed their job has had negative mental effect on their lives.

ATL General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted said she was shocked to hear that so many teachers are suffering from mental health issues.

Dr Bousted told MM: “Teaching has become very punishing work that you are consistently accountable for.

“This means that there are high levels of stress which lead to all sort of mental and physical problems for teachers.

“Teachers, lecturers, support staff and head teachers are now so over-worked that it comes as no surprise that so many in the education profession suffer from stress, depression and other mental health issues.

"Those working in education need to be supported better, with schools and colleges making adjustments to their jobs and working conditions where necessary."

The study also uncovered that 80% of the nation’s educators are stressed after a school day and a further 70% claimed they are left exhausted by their workload, with 66% of teachers struggling to sleep.

“Teachers are stressed because of a combination of different factors for example they are working a lot longer hours than they used to.

“Primary school teachers average 60 hours a week and secondary school teachers average 58 hours a week, which is a lot of over-time,” Dr Bousted added.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that the teaching profession was still a career that many aspired to.

She said: "We know that the vast majority of teachers and school leaders are hard-working and dedicated professionals, and statistics show that teaching has never been more attractive, more popular or more rewarding.

"A record number of top graduates are now applying to become teachers and vacancy rates are at their lowest since 2005.”

However Dr Bousted revealed that despite this the majority of teachers leave their position within the first five years and said that if this trend continues there will be a teaching crisis.

“Teachers have always worked hard but now work life isn’t compatible with family life and teachers have no time for other things,” she added.

“Teachers need to have a balance and we need to ensure that a teacher’s well-being is the responsibility of their employer.”

At the annual conference the ATL are putting forward resolutions which look to tackle the root of teachers’ stress.

The union is looking to establish a dedicated working group which targets the impact of performance management systems that focus on those with mental health issues.

Picture courtesy of Sander van der Wel via Flickr, with thanks.