Teacher mental health

The Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in schools at Leeds Beckett University conducted a survey in December 2017 which was completed by more than 700 teachers. The data show that the majority of teachers have experienced a mental health need and that poor teacher mental health can have a detrimental affect on pupil mental health, pupil progress, the quality of teaching and the quality of the relationships that teachers establish with pupils and colleagues.

The research demonstrates that the causes of poor teacher mental health are multi-faceted and include factors such as: teacher workload; changing demands to the curriculum; changes to assessment approaches in school; excessive monitoring of teacher performance and excessive surveillance from other teachers.

Teachers who completed the survey stated that poor teacher mental health can detrimentally affect:

  • their ability to plan lessons
  • their creativity,
  • the quality of their marking and feedback
  • their behaviour management skills
  • their ability to respond to the needs of learners, including those with mental health needs
  • the progress of their pupils
  • the quality of their explanations in class

This is the first research study that has specifically sought to establish the impact of poor teacher mental health on pupils. The latest research from the Education Support Partnership demonstrates that a significant proportion of teachers have experienced mental health issues including panic attacks, insomnia anxiety, depression and these factors have resulted in problems with teacher retention.

Literature consistently suggests that teacher workload is a contributory factor to poor teacher mental health. Whilst this argument has also evident in our research, teachers also emphasised in our study that lack of trust in teachers is a major contributory factor to poor teacher mental health. Teachers are willing to work hard, and they accept that when they enter the profession. However, our teacher participants identified that constant surveillance and panoptic styles of management also result in teachers being disempowered and that this can result in poor mental health for teachers.

Additionally, data from recent research by The Centre for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Education at Leeds Beckett University demonstrate that teachers who identify as LGBT are at risk of developing mental health needs. Some findings from this research are presented below:

Have your experiences as an LGBTQ+ teacher impacted negatively on your own mental health?

 

Have your experiences as an LGBTQ+ school leader impacted negatively on your mental health?

 

The problem of mental health in schools cannot be tackled by solely focusing on pupils. School leaders also need to consider how their policies and practices which they promote may contribute to poor mental health for teachers.

 

 

 

Pupil Mental Health

The Government’s determination to address mental health issues in children and young people is commendable and should be applauded. The proposals in the Green Paper represent a political commitment to a very important issue.

The Prime Minister is determined to correct, in her words, the ‘historic injustice’ of unfair discrimination and poor treatment of people with mental health needs. Support for children and young people in schools and colleges is inconsistent and waiting times to access specialist services are too long. One in ten young people have a diagnosable mental health condition and children with mental health problems face unequal life chances. Half of problems are established before the age of 14.

Key data from the latest research by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools at Leeds Beckett University are shown below:

Almost all of the 603 school leaders surveyed called for more funding to tackle the growing problem of pupils suffering mental health issues, and for Ofsted to inspect mental health provision.

The national ‘Pupil Mental Health Crisis?’ survey, conducted throughout November 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools at Leeds Beckett in collaboration with educational consultants Hub4Leaders, asked school leaders 10 questions regarding pupils’ mental health.

The research shows that most of the teachers surveyed felt that the mental health provision in their school was insufficient. Additionally, 61 per cent of teachers did not feel adequately trained to support pupils’ mental health needs and 76 per cent of schools faced challenges in accessing external mental health provision.

The key findings of the survey were:

Mental health problems in schools are growing

More than half of the school leaders agreed that there is insufficient mental health provision for pupils in their school and 97 per cent said more funding must be made available – 83 per cent said that mental health issues amongst pupils have increased in the past five years.

The promised training hasn’t been delivered

Two thirds of the school leaders surveyed said that there is still no dedicated staff member in their school who is trained in or given responsibility for pupils’ mental health, despite the Government’s pledge to provide mental health first aid training to schools.

Social media has an impact and parents must do more to help

Eighty-six per cent of respondents agreed that social media has directly impacted pupils’ mental health, with 89 per cent adding that parents should restrict the amount of time their child spends on the internet.

The Department for Education (DfE) need to provide more guidance.

Ninety-three per cent of the school leaders want the DfE to release more guidance on how to tackle the growing issue of pupils’ mental health.

 

This blog has raised some pertinent issues, but it is now time to seek solutions to some of these problems. There is a need for action. The solutions need to come from those in the profession who are facing the day-to-day challenges.

Professor Jonathan Glazzard

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Being a teacher educator within a University School of Education

I have worked in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) for nearly ten years. I am responsible for leading and managing all aspects of the Primary Education provision in my University and, like all academics, I am required to balance my teaching, administration and research responsibilities. I am passionate about teaching and about research. However, ITE in England is a highly regulated field. It is regulated by Ofsted (the independent inspectorate) as well as the University and the latest Ofsted inspection framework for ITE is certainly an inspection framework ‘with teeth’. Many institutions have been bitten by this framework which, in many respects, places unrealistic expectations on university providers of initial teacher education. Increasingly, my time is spent ensuring compliance with the latest and ever-changing Ofsted frameworks. These frameworks demand different things (in relation to quality assurance processes) than what is required by the University. Very often ITE lecturers are servants of two masters but we need to remember which master is paying our salary! Both Ofsted and the University demand different things and it is sometimes challenging to satisfy both giants. I often focus more on ensuring compliance with Ofsted requirements rather than University requirements because failing an Ofsted inspection or being down-graded could mean that we lose our teacher training provision. Currently we are outstanding in terms of Ofsted but the new framework has significantly raised the bar in terms of what we need to do to maintain our position. I spend my days, when I am not teaching, focusing on developing quality assurance mechanisms which will satisfy the inspectors. This of course means that there is little, if any, time available for research. Although time is allocated for research, the reality is that this time gets eaten away in order to ensure that we are ‘Ofsted ready’. Meetings are dominated by discussions of ‘Ofsted readiness’ rather than engaging in intellectual and stimulating academic debate with colleagues and this is no fault of the University. Although I fundamentally believe that teaching is a research-based profession it is ironic that this aspect of my role as a university lecturer is marginalised when, in actual fact, it is this aspect which is the most critical. My colleagues across the sector position themselves fundamentally as ‘educators’ rather than ‘trainers’ but the Ofsted lexicon emphasises training above education. The ITE Ofsted inspection framework now speaks directly to the Ofsted framework for schools. There is complete synergy between these two frameworks and inevitably this means that the vast majority of my time, and that of my colleagues, is spent focusing on the practical application of teaching rather than developing our students’ theoretical understandings of education. The Ofsted framework uses the term ‘trainees’ but universities use the term ‘students’ which suggests that there is a dichotomy which needs to be resolved. Teaching has always been an academic profession. It is not a craft which must simply be mastered. The best teachers are also great thinkers and great researchers. They are able to reflect critically and rigorously on all aspects of education and they are able to research their own practice. If we lose this focus then we are in danger of developing the next generation of carbon-copy teachers who simply replicate what they have observed.

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The challenges of being a teacher educator within a University