STRESS IN EDUCATION | What can be done?

Teachers have taken 1.3 million days off as a result of stress and poor mental health in the last four years.

It is yet another reminder of the immense pressure facing those in the teaching profession.

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Million Days off as a result of stress and poor mental health

Stress in teaching

With reportedly overwhelming workloads both inside and outside the classroom, long working hours, policy changes, budget cuts, larger classes, a struggle to meet parental expectations and problems to attract and retain staff, stress in the teaching profession is a real issue. When left unchecked, stress impacts on pupil experience and attainment and can lead to burnout, serious mental health issues, prolonged absences and teachers leaving the profession in their droves. Moreover, it can have a significant impact on school budgets, at a time when budgets are under increasing strain.

With the alarm bells ringing, the government, teaching unions, Ofsted and teaching professionals have been trying to find effective strategies to combat stress.

A three-pronged approach to combat stress

In July 2018, a Workload reduction toolkit and tips to reduce workload in your school was published by the government developed by education specialists following consultation with schools. In the guidance, it sets out that all schools should:

In order to pinpoint areas of concerns, you can conduct staff questionnaires, workshops, informal discussions, group meetings and performance appraisals. All are useful ways to extract key workplace stressors and find common trends and patterns.

Once you understand what is causing stress in your school, you need to take action to reduce or eliminate the risks.

If, for example, lesson planning is the source of teachers’ stress, think about how technology can be used to take the burden off teachers; how to promote greater collaboration between your teachers and review whether your resources are aiding your employees in the right way.

Once you have implemented the changes, you will need to measure the results. This could involve evaluating pupil results, assessing responses from surveys to parents or comparing outcomes from trying different trials.

Top tips to combating stress:

Here are some key tips intended to help eradicate stress caused by unnecessary workload:

  • Look at effective use of technology
  • Review marking practices and think about conducting a feedback and marking workshop with staff
  • Assess curriculum planning
  • Consider the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and what it means for data management
  • Plan ahead for changes and implement in a structured manner
  • Review and streamline your performance management processes and provide support for staff wellbeing and particularly for those in the early stages of their career.

The full list of tips can be found here.

"All members of the board should pay due regard to ensuring that leaders and teachers...have a satisfactory work life balance"
Jane Hallas, Head of Education Team, Ellis Whittam

Comment

Jane Hallas, Head of Education, comments: ‘Schools should also have due regard for their obligations under the Working Times Regulations and for maintained schools, academies and MATs, the Competency Framework for Governance which states that all members of the Board should pay due regard to ensuring that leaders and teachers are able to have a satisfactory work life balance and their obligations under the STPCD.

If a member of staff becomes ill through stress which may eventually lead to a resignation or even dismissal, the employer will be judged on whether they have done everything they could to support their employee. Many MAT employers who are successful in supporting staff are rigorous in their application of their absence policies and may also use an Employee Assistance Programme where employees have access to confidential phone counselling in the early stages of an issue’.

If you would like to discuss this further, speak to the education experts at Ellis Whittam.

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