Whole Education has a strategic partnership with the Education Placement Group – leaders in education recruitment, retention and the provision of ITT. EPG CEO Robyn Johnstone reviews the mental health epidemic impacting the education workforce and suggest ways a ‘whole education’ approach can address the issue.
Our colleagues at Education Support Partnership (ESP) – the UK’s only charity committed to the mental health and wellbeing of the entire education workforce – are demanding urgent action be taken by the government to address a stress epidemic and rising mental health issues across the entire UK education workforce. This follows the recent release of ESP’s Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018, conducted in partnership with YouGov.
More than three-quarters of teachers surveyed experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms and more than half were considering leaving the profession due to poor health.
Senior leaders have been particularly hard hit with 80% suffering from work-related stress, 40% suffering from symptoms of depression and 63% considering leaving the profession – an issue which, if unaddressed, will leave many schools with no one to lead, motivate staff and maintain and improve educational outcomes.
The results revealed a significant rise in several mental health and wellbeing-related symptoms. A worrying 76% of those surveyed had experienced a range of symptoms where work was a contributing factor.
How a positive approach to school culture can make a difference
I believe the solution lies in creating a supportive school culture and placing it at the heart of the agenda, an ethos championed by Whole Education.
I took part in discussions in the future-proofing your workforce strand at Whole Education’s recent 9th Annual Conference. We heard from speakers including Sam Sims, Rachel Lofthouse, Vivienne Porritt and Emma Hollis on how approaches including a comprehensive package of early-career support for new teachers, teacher coaching, a more inclusive approach to recruitment and greater use of flexible working could all help to build a culture that supports and develops teachers and leaders.
Providing sufficient guidance and advice on health and wellbeing for staff through well-communicated formal policies is essential too. Teachers are historically less likely to seek support from their employer when experiencing mental health issues related to work.
A school culture which positively addresses mental health, rather than seeing it as a sign of weakness, will be better placed to deal with issues early and stem the exodus of staff.
What should policy makers be doing to ensure that teachers feel valued in their roles?
EPG is adamant that the stress epidemic and rise in poor mental health across the education workforce should be addressed and is actively supporting its colleagues at Education Support Partnership in calling for the government to introduce the following measures:
- Mandatory provision of personal mental health and wellbeing guidance within initial teaching training
- Regulators to prioritise staff wellbeing in their assessments and measure this against an evidenced based framework
- Statutory annual staff surveys in all schools and colleges; with senior leaders acting on the issues identified in an open and transparent way
- Increased awareness, knowledge and signposting to external support services
- Access to an employee assistance programme for all staff in schools and colleges
- Access to facilitated peer support programmes for all senior leaders in schools and colleges.
Let’s all reflect on why we went into teaching – the desire to make a difference and to shape a child’s life – and join forces to keep the education work place a wonderful and positive place to be.
How are you building a positive school culture and supporting the wellbeing of your teachers and leaders? Tell us using the hashtag #WEpreparED.
Whole Education’s Strategic HR programme aims to build a supportive peer network for education HR leaders and help them think strategically about making your school/Trust a brilliant place to work. Contact Charlotte@wholeeducation.org.
For further information on Education Placement Group, please call 0114 2572700 or email email@example.com.