Pressures on teachers causing rise in mental health issues - ATL

Press release
14 April 2014 by ATL Media Office
Education staff report a rise in mental health problems among colleagues over the past two years, according to a survey by ATL.

Education staff report a rise in mental health problems among colleagues over the past two years, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

ATL surveyed more than 900 education staff about their mental health and the reasons for any problems, ahead of a debate at the unions annual conference. The survey found:

* More than a third (38%) of school and college staff have noticed a rise in mental health problems among colleagues in the past two years.

* More than half (55%) of those working in education feel their job has had a negative impact on their mental health.

* Nearly seven in 10 (68%) school and college staff hide mental health issues from employers, while over six in 10 (63%) report physical problems.

* Almost half (45%) didn't disclose hidden health issues because of worry about managers' reactions.

* ATL calls for more to be done to ease the stigma surrounding mental health.

The most common factors affecting the mental health of education staff were pressures to meet targets (63%) and inspections (59%), followed by pressure from leaders (55%).

More than half (55%) say their job has a negative impact on their mental health. Of those who say their job affects their health, 80% state stress is a factor. Almost 70% say their work results in them being exhausted and 66% believe it disturbs their sleep pattern.

The stigma attached to mental health issues means those working in education are still afraid to tell their employers; two thirds (68%) of education staff who suffer with a mental health issue choose to hide it from their employers.

The survey found schools and colleges should do more to look after their staff, with 49% of respondents stating that their employer is not doing enough to meet its duty of care for their mental and emotional well-being, and 38% saying not enough is done for their physical health.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "I am shocked that so many education staff are reporting a rise in mental health problems. But teachers, lecturers, support staff and heads are now so over-worked that it comes as no surprise that so many in the education profession suffer from stress, depression and other mental health issues.

"Education professionals do more unpaid overtime than any other group and are put under constant intense pressure to meet targets, with excessive observation, changes in the curriculum and Ofsted inspections.

"Those working in education need to be supported better, with schools and colleges making adjustments to their jobs and working conditions where necessary.

"ATL calls for more to be done to ease the stigma surrounding mental health problems."

Quotes from members:

A head of a department in Newport said: "The constant pressure, with unrealistic targets given at short notice has had an adverse effect on my health. If you complain or discuss it, your job will be at risk."

A head of department in a school in St Helens said: "Stress exacerbates my medical condition, but, as teaching is highly stressful, this seems unlikely to change."

A head of department in a secondary school in Kent said: "It is no good telling the management about your hidden disabilities because they will consider you as a weak link."

A lecturer in a college in Manchester said: "The pressure of working in education continues to increase. Work eats into every aspect of a teacher's life. Difficult working conditions, pressures from management and Ofsted and very little spare time all contribute to an individual's well-being. Teachers are over-worked, stressed and unhappy. The profession is full of ill-health and tiredness."

A teacher in a Kent primary school said: "I have decided to leave teaching because of work-related stress. I have been expected to work up to 90 hours per week and this has had a terrible impact on my family life and my health. I am also frustrated I have had to leave teaching several years early because of the pressure of work."

To view the full survey stats click here.

Notes to editors

  1. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.
  2. ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice.
  3. ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.

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