Major study shows staff wellbeing in schools is on a knife edge

Teachers are reeling from the shock of the pandemic as the continued pressures on them are taking a lasting toll on their wellbeing, according to the latest Tes Staff Wellbeing Report. Worryingly, just 38% of the UK teaching population surveyed feel confident in their roles.

The report shows how school staff are battling unmanageable workloads exacerbated by inadequate resources and a lack of flexibility, as well as limited opportunities for career development.A stressed out woman

Poor school staff wellbeing could lead to absenteeism, long term sick-leave or even valuable school staff quitting the profession. These all have serious implications on student outcomes, fellow teachers, and can also prove costly for already cash-strapped schools.

The concerning conclusions of the 2022 Tes Staff Wellbeing Report include:

  • Self-belief among school staff has taken a major blow, with now only 38 per cent of UK respondents saying they feel confident performing their role, compared with 79 per cent in last year’s Tes survey.
  • 67 per cent of UK teachers said their workload simply isn't manageable – much higher than the international average of 36 per cent across the survey.
  • Almost half of school staff said they feel they don't have a voice about how things go at their school, and a similar number said they feel they don't have the autonomy to make decisions. This is particularly true for teaching staff: 57 per cent of teachers and 41 per cent of middle leaders said they lack autonomy.
  • 47 per cent of UK respondents said there aren't opportunities for them to develop in their current position, with only a fifth (22%) feeling that there is.
  • School staff are enjoying their work less. More than half of those surveyed said they do not find work fun, with less than a fifth saying that they do (down from 45 per cent last year).
  • While 81 per cent of UK respondents said that they get a sense of belonging to a team in their current roles, only two-fifths of those surveyed said they feel that their colleagues care about them. This is a substantial drop year-on-year; in 2020, the majority of respondents (66 per cent) said they felt their colleagues care about them.

A stressed out manTes Senior Analyst Grainne Hallahan said: “This report shows the damaging effects of the pandemic on the wellbeing of school staff are going to be with us for some time. Teacher wellbeing is on a knife edge as they struggle with increased demands, mounting workloads and a real lack of good CPD. Staff in schools are enjoying their work less and most don’t feel valued as part of a whole school team.

“These are worrying findings for schools, but these problems are not insurmountable. By offering staff the right support, training and knowledge that their voices are heard and understood, senior leaders have the opportunity to inspire a dramatic shift in wellbeing at their schools, with all the benefits for teacher retention and pupil outcomes that will bring.”

Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support, a charity dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff in schools, colleges and universities, said:

“School staff continue to display an incredible capacity for adaptability, focus and resilience. But teachers and other school staff are struggling with heavy and intense workloads. They are struggling with work-life balance and often don’t receive enough of the right support.

“This report sheds light on the severe impact of the pandemic on the teaching profession.  Wellbeing has to be at the heart of our education system, and a central part of the education recovery agenda. Proper recognition of the importance of teacher mental health is essential to support the people who are responsible for teaching and inspiring our children.

Katie Shearer, a principal teacher at St Patrick’s Primary School in Glasgow was featured in the Tes Staff Wellbeing Report.

She said: “The vocational commitment of teachers should not then be used as a vehicle to overwork, guilt trip or compromise teacher mental health. Our commitment to the profession at times can leave us feeling very self-critical, under pressure and trying to manage an overwhelming amount of stress. If practitioners want to be able to make a real difference, our health and wellbeing needs to be a priority, now more than ever.”