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‘Stark gap’ between teacher and leader wellbeing

There must be a greater “focus” on helping teachers have “happy and healthy lives”, a former trust boss has warned after research found a “stark gap” in wellbeing.

A survey by Edurio of more than 11,000 school staff, shared with Schools Week, found teachers were more than twice as likely to report that they felt unwell physically and mentally than leaders, and were more likely to report being overworked, stressed and lacking sleep.

John Murphy, the former chief executive of Oasis Community Learning, said the “pressures of the accountability system are undoubtedly part of the picture, along with the aftermath of Covid which has left a trail of ill health as well as anxiety about health”.

John Murphy

“Teachers want to be – and are – society builders but we do not focus enough on helping them and other educational professionals to have happy and healthy lives. If that is properly addressed they we will be in a far better position to help children flourish.”

When asked how well they felt physically and mentally, 32 per cent of teachers, 24 per cent of teaching assistants, 19 per cent of administrative staff and 15 per cent of leaders said either “not very well” or “not well at all”.

Asked how well they slept, 39 per cent of teachers, 35 per cent of TAs, 31 per cent of admin staff and 29 per cent of leaders said either “not very well” or “not well at all”.

‘Disappointing and surprising’

Leaders were slightly more likely to report being stressed very or quite often (43 per cent) than TAs (42 per cent) and admin staff (36 per cent), but much less likely than teachers (56 per cent).

Leaders also came second only to teachers when asked if they felt overworked. Fifty per cent of leaders said they very often or quite often felt overworked, but the figure was 63 per cent for teachers.

However, 54 per cent of teachers and 77 per cent of leaders reported feeling excited by the work they do, compared to 43 per cent of administrative staff.

Jonny Uttley, CEO of the Education Alliance multi-academy trust in East Yorkshire, said the findings “painted a difficult picture about staff working in schools and their lived experience.”

He said the “most disappointing and surprising” finding was that just 9 per cent of teachers reported that they rarely or never felt stressed, adding this was a “real concern”.

“It shows the scale of challenge for school leaders, the education system and for policymakers because wellbeing and how people feel about their work is directly linked to risks around retention and the crisis around recruitment.”

The research reported its findings based on protected characteristics of staff, finding some groups were more likely to report low levels of wellbeing.

Wellbeing worse among disabled and LGBT staff

Just a fifth of disabled staff reported feeling very or quite well, compared to 43 per cent of non-disabled staff.

They also reported higher stress levels, with 56 per cent reporting they were very or quite often stressed, compared to 44 per cent of their non-disabled colleagues.

Again, LGBTQ+ staff were more likely to report feeling stressed (54 per cent) than heterosexual staff (46 per cent). Thirty-three per cent reported feeling not very well or not well at all, compared to 24 per cent.

Women were more likely to report feeling stressed (47 per cent) than men (42 per cent) and less likely to say they felt well (39 per cent compared to 46 per cent).

But the research found “no clear relationship between wellbeing and ethnicity, with staff of different ethnic groups showing no significant differences across the measures”.

Iona Jackson, head of insights at Edurio, said staff wellbeing “has been an ever-pressing issue due to the recruitment and retention crisis in the education sector”.

“So, it is vital to understand the lived experience of staff working in education today as it relates to their wellbeing so that we can find solutions and provide support to enhance wellbeing across the education sector.”

“The aim of this report is to give school and trust leaders the information they need to create workplaces for their employees that support, take into account varying needs, and provide fulfilment for educating and raising future generations.”

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