Stress is Causing a Sick Leave Surge for Teachers

Teaching is becoming an increasingly stressful occupation. Dealing with policy changes and budget cuts whilst also educating children and young people is taking a toll on educators. Add to this the issues of staff shortages, larger classrooms and a bigger work load, teachers are struggling to cope. As a result, their mental health is suffering with 3,750 teachers on long-term sick leave.

Long-Term Sick Leave has Increased

Teaching Unions are emphasising the importance of dealing with the “epidemic of stress” faced by educators. The large numbers of people undertaking long-term sick leave during 2017 was due to work pressure, anxiety and declining mental illness. Figures indicate an increase of 5% from 2016. This shows that one in 83 teachers took over a month off work in 2016-17.

Overall, stress and mental health reasons have led to a total of 1.3 million sick days being taken over the course of the last four years. Comparatively, teachers are working the most unpaid overtime; totalling a 55-hour work week, the extra hours are unpaid overtime. Education leaders have an extra 5 hours added to that total. Their work extends outside of the classroom, with work grading and lesson planning as examples. Although over-time undertaken by teachers is essential, it is never really considered.

Teachers are Under Significant Pressure

The large workload isn’t the only problem. The pressures of the developing school systems are putting significant pressure on educators . In recent years, there are more ways than ever that schools could fail Ofsted reports, so teachers are constantly being pushed to demonstrate progress.

Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union Dr Mary Bousted describes English students as some of the “most over-assessed in the modern world”.

In addition to progression pressures, stress is also being caused by constant changes to school curriculums and assessment methods. Bousted has described this as a “relentless policy onslaught” leaving educators stressed and exhausted from trying to work around ever-changing systems whilst also accommodating their students.

Less People Want to be Teachers

Bousted also blames the increase in stress levels for the decline in teacher training applications. Although there have been recruitment efforts through expensive campaigns, people are less likely to take on a career in teaching. The simple fact is that the reality of stress is clearly visible, and it is acting as a deterrent.

Teachers play an essential part in society. Educating children forms the ambitions and careers of the future that benefits everyone. All teachers want their students to achieve the best possible outcome from their education, but in the process, they are being driven into declining mental and physical health.

The daily demands of educators are becoming increasingly difficult and close to impossible. Ultimately, teachers are being driven away from their careers to safeguard their health and potential educators are being deterred from entering the profession. Governing bodies have a responsibility to improve conditions for teachers so that their health isn’t sacrificed for their work.


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