One in 20 teachers struggling with mental health

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One teacher in 20 is suffering with a mental health issue that has lasted, or is likely to last, more than a year, according to new analysis.

Researchers at the UCL Institute of Education found that 5% of teaching staff had a long-lasting mental health problem. This is compared with just 1% in the 1990s.

Professor John Jerrim of the UCL Institute of Education, who is the lead author of the report, said: “The teaching profession in England is currently in the midst of a crisis and one potential reason why its struggling to recruit and retain enough teachers is due to the pressures of the job.

“It has long been known that teaching is a stressful and challenging career and we wanted to see if the mental health and wellbeing of teachers had improved or declined, especially in light of government promises to ease the burden upon the teaching profession.”

The Nuffield Foundation-funded research looked at data from more than 20,000 teachers and education professionals collected between 1992 and 2018. Sources included the the Labour Force Survey, the Annual Population Survey and the Health Survey for England.

But despite the perceived scale of the issue, there had not been any increase or decrease in the number of teaching staff reporting unhappiness, anxiety of feelings of low worth over the past decade. This, the researchers suggested, might indicate that teachers felt more open to reporting any mental health issues they experienced than other professions, and could be more willing to seek help..

“The results from our study may therefore not be as worrying as they first seem, if it means more teachers who are struggling with their mental health are now getting help. However, more needs to done to monitor and improve the mental health and wellbeing of the teaching profession – similar to the commitment that has been made to track teachers’ workloads over time,” said Prof Jerrim.

The research paper suggests this monitoring could be achieved through a combination of enhancing existing data collections and by creating new links between education and health administrative records.

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “In one sense, these findings are reassuring in that the levels of life-satisfaction, happiness and anxiety amongst teachers has remained broadly stable over the last 20 years.

“However, we also know that the pressures of workload, working hours and job satisfaction are contributing to a crisis in teacher retention, and those pressures still need to be addressed if we want to keep good teachers in our schools.”

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