Opinion Former Article

NASUWT: stress and lack of support leaving some teachers suicidal

Teachers suffering from stress, burnout and depression have even considered suicide after a lack of support from their school and management teams according to a survey by the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union.

The report, based on interviews with teachers and school managers, revealed teachers that are suffering from a range of stress related symptoms including heart palpitations, lack of sleep, eating problems and depression.

The cost of support and the stigma associated with mental health problems were cited as one of the main causes of affected teachers feeling isolated.

A wide range of causes were blamed for the stress being suffered by teachers, including bullying school management, the tick-box culture, targets and difficult pupils.

The report comes as NASUWT delegates prepare to debate a motion on Workplace Stress and Teacher Wellbeing at the union's annual conference in Birmingham.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

"This hard-hitting report is designed to put the spotlight on the issue of mental health which is often swept under the carpet.

"Teaching is widely recognised as one of the most stressful occupations but a healthy workforce is central to delivering healthy outcomes for pupils.

"The research commissioned by the NASUWT highlights the need for access to support, counselling and specific health interventions for the workforce.

"The research also confirms the need to tackle the root causes of stress in schools, such as the impact of the high-stakes accountability regime on the wellbeing of school leaders, teachers and other staff ."

ENDS

Press office contacts:
Ilana Rapaport - 07966 195010
Stuart Gannon - 07966 198894

Notes to Editors

Please see a copy of the report, Teachers' Mental Health: A study exploring the experiences of teachers with work-related stress and mental health problems, attached.

The full conference motion is below:

WORKPLACE STRESS AND TEACHER WELLBEING

Conference asserts that workplace stress is endemic in the school and college environment and believes that the pressures under which teachers work have resulted in high levels of stress and anxiety in the profession.

Conference believes that the culture of institutional bullying which has developed in many schools and colleges, often associated with a target-driven culture, is a cause of stress and anxiety, impacts adversely on the health and wellbeing of many teachers and makes their work environment intolerable.

Conference further asserts that health and safety is about the development of a positive state of health and wellbeing so that work is an activity that enhances the health and wellbeing of workers instead of being detrimental to it.

Conference welcomes initiatives such as the NASUWT's teacher wellbeing survey and commends the findings of the NASUWT-sponsored research Work-Related Stress and Mental Health Difficulties: Teachers' Experiences, Organisational Response and Leadership Issues.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive to campaign, with greater urgency, for the improvement

of teachers' emotional health and psychological wellbeing by attempting to secure:

(i) greater awareness among school and college leaders and governors of the drivers of stress and of their statutory responsibilities for the health, safety and wellbeing of teachers;

(ii) the adoption of health and safety management systems in schools and colleges which include targets for improvement in the health and wellbeing of teachers;

(iii) improved early support for teachers who experience stress and/or psychological difficulties;

(iv) improvements to initial teacher training to better support the professional, health and wellbeing needs of new teachers;

(v) workforce impact assessments, including the effect on health and wellbeing, of educational policies and initiatives, assessment arrangements and pupil indiscipline and

(vi) reductions in the workload and working hours of teachers.

AMENDMENT (i)

In paragraph 5 after 'Executive' insert 'to update and reissue the anti-bullying booklet 'No Place to Hide' and'.

AMENDMENT (ii)

Insert new point (v) to read:

'(v) improvements to school leadership training, which recognises the need for and identifies means by which

school leaders can better support the health and wellbeing of all teachers in their workplaces;'.

Reformat accordingly.

AMENDMENT (iii)

Add point (vii) to read:

'an obligation for local authorities and governing bodies to monitor stress-related absences and to identify and eliminate the causes.'.

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