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Schools are on the verge of a staffing crisis, as one in three (34%) teachers are considering leaving the profession as a result of “unbearable pressure”, according to new research from Ecclesiastical.
COVID-19 has created many challenges for teaching staff in primary, secondary, and independent schools across the UK. A survey of 500 teachers found that the biggest challenges facing schools include pupil stress and anxiety (65%), increased pressure on staff to help pupils catch up (64%) and pupils struggling to catch up on time lost (58%).
The survey, commissioned by Ecclesiastical and conducted prior to some schools returning from the third nationwide lockdown, found that over half (56%) of teachers say that the pandemic has increased their workload, with two thirds (66%) finding the third lockdown more difficult to manage in terms of delivering online lessons, supporting pupils to cope with online learning fatigue and meeting expectations of online learning.
These pressures on school staff have resulted in two in five (41%) teachers saying they are struggling to cope.
Mounting pressure is taking a toll on teachers’ mental health
More than three quarters (77%) of teachers surveyed say that their school has seen an increase in staff mental health concerns since the start of COVID-19, with nearly one in four (24%) saying this has increased greatly. Furthermore, 80% of respondents say that they have seen an increase in staff anxiety overall.
Many schools have put additional measures in place to support their people through the pandemic – more than three quarters (76%) of teachers say that their school has provided additional wellbeing support in response to COVID-19 – though the impact has yet to be felt. Nearly six in 10 (57%) believe their school needs to do more to support staff wellbeing and 24% of respondents said that no additional support was being provided at all.
Teachers have also reported concerns about pupils’ mental health since the third lockdown. Three quarters (75%) of teachers say concerns about pupil mental health have increased since January 2021. Eight in 10 (80%) have seen an increase in pupil anxiety during this time.
Return to school was a cause of anxiety for teachers
Pupils and teachers across England returned to school on 8th March as part of the first step of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown restrictions. Yet ahead of schools reopening, 65% of teachers admitted to feeling anxious about returning to their school after the third national lockdown.
The survey found that concern about the risks of catching COVID-19 (70%), pupils not adhering to social distancing (59%) and concern about the extra workloads caused by COVID-19 (53%) are the top three reasons teachers gave for feeling anxious about returning to school.
Faith Kitchen, Education Director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “Teachers have been faced with the monumental task of keeping pupils engaged and motivated through virtual learning. Now they must navigate the stresses and strains of physical teaching with additional safety measures in place. It is clear that these huge challenges are pushing a number of teachers to breaking point. With long hours, health concerns and supporting pupils’ anxieties, teachers are understandably feeling the effects on their own mental health.
“This is a serious risk to schools and administrators and leaders need to make sure there is sufficient support for their staff, as pupils complete the rest of the year. They should also ensure that there are contingency plans to ease the pressure on teachers, should the country go into another lockdown.”
The survey was commissioned by specialist education insurer Ecclesiastical and conducted by OnePoll with 500 teachers from 24 February – 8 March 2021.