Education International
Education International

UK: increasing professional pressure greatly affects teacher wellbeing and mental health

published 6 March 2017 updated 7 March 2017

Nearly half of teachers who responded to a poll led in Scotland on teacher wellbeing said their mental health was poor, fueling fears that growing numbers are struggling to cope with the profession’s changing demands.

The survey was led in February 2017 by Jenny Harvey, a special needs teacher from Fife, a region of eastern Scotland. It brought a considerable volume of responses – 778 at the last count.

Harvey said she was surprised by some findings, such as almost every respondent having felt the “heavy burden” of guilt about the educational experience they offered students. “We just want the best for our pupils and sometimes we feel more could be done for them,” she said, regretting that “there just aren’t enough hours in the day or resources that we need.”

Some 45 per cent of respondents said that their mental health was “poor” or “very poor”, and 15 per cent reported taking medication because of the strains of their work. A significant proportion also take medication because of their job.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), affiliated to Education International, has seen increased casework around mental health, which EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan described as “extremely worrying”. He added that “the severe workload pressure increasingly placed on staff is a likely contributory factor to the growing number of stress-related mental health issues that members are reporting.”

While “in most occupations, you can shut your door and have a coffee if things get on top of you,” “the lack of control teachers have over their timetable, including breaks, makes it very difficult to take respite when it is needed,” also noted Euan Duncan, President of Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, also an EI member organisation.

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