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Working in education is bad for your health


Seventy per cent of teachers and lecturers say their health has suffered because of their job, and over 50% are stressed by working in education, according to an Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Teacher Support Network survey.

The health impact is even higher among school leaders and heads of department with 75% and 73% respectively complaining. And female teachers (72%) admit to suffering more than male (66%).

The highest stress levels are reported by those working in further education colleges (59%) followed by those working in sixth form colleges (54%). And more heads of department say they are stressed (58%) than school or college leaders (56%) and teachers (52%).

These findings are unsurprising since staff at all levels say demands on them and their time have increased over the past five years. Eighty four cent say this is because of the number of new education initiatives they have to deal with, 83% say their workload is higher, and 79% say they are doing more admin. For school and college leaders the biggest change has been in the amount of extra responsibility (96%), for heads of department a higher workload (91%) and more admin (91%), and for teachers new education initiatives (84%).

In a worrying signal to school and colleges over 70% of those with health problems have considered leaving the profession, rising to 84% among secondary school staff.

Among those whose health has been affected, 51% have gone to their local GP to seek help and 36% have taken time off work. The most widely reported health problems are stress (85%), disturbed sleep patterns (83%), and exhaustion (82%).

Morale is reported to be good in the majority of schools and sixth form colleges with 55% saying it is OK or positive, however, 51% of those working in further education colleges say staff are despondent.

ATL general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “The demands and pressures on those working in school is escalating. They are having to cope with endless government initiatives making changes to what is taught and the way it is taught, and the huge pressure from the government, Ofsted, parents and the schools and colleges themselves to get pupils through tests. It is unsurprising that so many teachers and lecturers are contemplating getting out of teaching, and that it is so hard to find people prepared to take on headship or leadership roles.”

Patrick Nash from the Teacher Support Network said: “During our experiences as a charity supporting teachers through counselling and coaching, we have seen just how much stress affects both individual teachers and learning experiences of pupils. Schools and the government must work together to ensure the introduction of wellbeing programmes and better policies to look after the health of their staff.”


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