Mental health awareness, and attempts to tackle it, are consistently on the increase. However, for one in four of us, struggling with our mental health remains an everyday reality. According to a recent survey by the charity Mind, the problem is actually worse in the public sector, where mental wellbeing lags behind the public sector.
A survey of over 2,100 teaching staff carried out by Randstad earlier this year found that whilst 88% of respondents described their own mental health as ‘very good’ ‘or perfect’, the majority of schools do not detect early symptoms of mental health in time - 69% of the teachers surveyed said that their employer was slow to notice symptoms of mental health.
can the government help?
In the same Randstad survey, of the 90 respondents who described their mental health as either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, 68 of them blamed the amount of work they faced as the root cause. Teacher workload, and attempts to combat it is a much debated topic. From being blamed as the cause of some health issues, to teachers leaving the profession, it’s also thought to be the reason why less are joining in the first place.
However, could new government resources help teachers with their rising workloads, and in turn help education staff manage their mental health? Last month, Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced new online resources for teachers to help them reduce the time they spend on ‘unnecessary’ tasks, and support them in focusing on teaching.
Building on his pledge to champion the teaching profession and reduce workloads in schools, Hinds has launched an online toolkit, developed with leading teachers, school leaders and technology experts, aimed to ‘remove burdensome responsibilities’ (DfE 2018) allowing staff to focus on inspiring pupils in their classrooms. The toolkit provides:
- advice and workshops on the most burdensome tasks such as pupil feedback and marking, planning and resources, and data management
- ready-made tools to help schools quickly implement new policies, and cut down on time-consuming tasks such as email communication
- a series of case studies to share knowledge of how schools across the country have used technology to streamline processes
It is split into three stages for schools to work through:
Stage one: identifying the workload issues in your school(s)
This stage offers advice on how schools can approach the task of identifying workload issues, including example templates of surveys that can be given to teaching staff to complete.
Stage two: addressing the workload issues in your school(s)
This stage provides workshops, tools and resources to help schools combat their workload issues, once the issues have been identified. It includes support with curriculum planning, data management, feedback and marking, and supporting early career teachers.
Stage three: evaluating the impact
This stage gives schools guidance about how they can see if the new processes they have implemented are helping with reducing workload, for example by establishing a school wellbeing committee and implementing a workload and wellbeing action plan.
Also provided are work reduction case studies from schools, which showcase how written feedback can be replaced, how planning tasks can be shared, and how teachers can be supported with achieving a positive work-life balance.
To work alongside this toolkit, the School Standards Minister Nick Gibb is launching a series of online videos, made with teaching unions, professional bodies and schools, it will provide advice and guidance on workload. The first video is on the theme of planning, and makes it clear that individual lesson planning is not a requirement from either the Department for Education or Ofsted. It also highlights that collaboration or sharing of resources between schools, departments and teachers can help to reduce the workload associated with curriculum planning.
happier teachers, happier pupils?
Ultimately, the aim of these online resources is to not only to build on government plans to boost teacher development opportunities and to introduce more flexible working practices, but to make our classrooms a happier place: if schools can help their teachers feel under less pressure from their workload, then teachers will be able to enjoy teaching more, and hopefully feel more supported with their mental health.
It is also important to consider how supporting teachers with their overall mental health can impact pupils. As concerns for children and young people’s mental health rise, a recent joint report from the Health and Education Select Committee’s notes states that schools have a front line role in children and young people’s mental health. So, if teachers are well-supported, then they will be better equipped to not only provide great teaching, but to provide pupils with the support they need for their wellbeing.
As an employer, we know how important it is for you to fill your vacancies with staff who are the right fit for you. That’s why we’re here to provide you with an extensive database of top class talent who can tackle the daily hectic schedules of teaching life. If you want to discuss how we can support you, share your details and we’ll be in touch.