Teachers say their mental health has been so damaged that many needed medical help to cope with “overwhelming” work pressures during lockdown, while some resorted to self-harm, according to one of the UK’s major teaching unions.
One in four teachers who answered questions about their mental wellbeing told the NASUWT union that they had needed to see a doctor or other medical professional because of the pandemic’s impact, with many undergoing counselling or taking antidepressants.
A small number of the 4,700 members who replied said they had self-harmed within the last 12 months as a result of their work. Others reported that their relationships had broken down during the pandemic, and nearly one in three said they had increased their alcohol consumption as a means to cope with their job.
One teacher told the union: “Managing my own family with the increased workload of remote learning, as well as in-the-classroom learning, was ridiculous. I was working two jobs. My mental health suffered, my family’s mental health suffered. I considered leaving the profession.”
Patrick Roach, the NASUWT’s general secretary, said: “These figures are truly shocking and starkly illustrate the significant impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and school staff.
“It has led to a huge increase in workload and while the profession has responded with remarkable agility and professionalism, Covid-19 and the impacts on working have had a detrimental effect on teachers’ physical and mental health.
“Ministers and school employers must recognise that to deliver the programme of education recovery vital for the nation’s children and young people, teacher wellbeing has to be recognised.”
More than 80% of teachers who responded said their work-related stress had increased since March 2020, while just 5% said it was lower.
One teacher told the union: “The pressure from the principal is unbearable and I am considering leaving the profession if I do not find a job in another school. No one is checking on the workloads of staff.”
Several teachers blamed the government’s policies, with one saying: “The lack of consultation with the teaching profession from this government is shocking … It is extremely difficult to stay in teaching in England because of the lack of respect shown to the profession and I am truly surprised anyone still wants to join the profession at present.”
The figures come as the NASUWT prepares to debate a motion on teachers’ wellbeing at the union’s annual conference. The motion backs a Trades Union Congress campaign to include job-related stress as a reportable injury under workplace regulations.
Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, will tell the virtual conference that the government’s stealth cuts will affect 30,000 children whose schools will lose out on pupil premium funding this year.
The Department for Education’s change to when it calculates the number of children on free meals means schools with children from disadvantaged families miss out on extra funding if their parents lost their job since the beginning of October.
The pupil premium is worth more than £1,000 a year to schools for each pupil receiving free school meals.
“For some schools this stealth cut will more than wipe out the pitiful funding the government provided to support pupils to recover the learning lost over the last year,” Labour said.
Freedom of information requests by Labour found that schools in Bristol could lose up to £1.8m because of the change. Schools across the north-east are likely to lose between £5m and £7m this year.