A recent YouGov survey has revealed that around a third of teachers are experiencing increased mental health fears around the current covid-19 outbreak.

The survey included 820 teachers and senior leaders, with 59% of primary teachers and 49% of secondary school teachers reporting that anxiety and stress levels were higher than normal for the start of the summer term.

Nearly half of respondents (49%) said their stress and anxiety stemmed from fears of family members or themselves catching the coronavirus. 35% teachers were experiencing stress and anxiety over preparing school work for students to complete at home.

Schools closing was far more stressful than it needed to be. We were having to change plans daily as information was drip-fed.

Primary Headteacher

Other reported causes of stress included:

  • Anxiety about their own and families’ mental health and well-being (34%)
  • The exam process, particularly for secondary teachers (43% compared with 5% of primary)
  • Supporting families who might need extra emotional or financial support (31% of primary teachers and 19% secondary teachers)
  • Ongoing uncertainty about what might happen during the summer term (44%) and what may happen in the new school year (46%).

One primary teacher said: “I am never anxious about returning to school after the holidays. I am anxious now because everything is uncertain. We are in danger of dying from a pandemic and I don’t know what we are going to do to cope and support our students.”

A primary headteacher described their experience as being “on tenterhooks” due to uncertainty or lack of clarity in government plans.

“We will be on tenterhooks not knowing what the government plans to do next and how much notice we’ll get for the children returning to school,” they said.

“Schools closing was far more stressful than it needed to be. We were having to change plans daily as information was drip-fed.”

A senior leader said the the whole experience had been incredibly stressful for them on a personal level, impacting their mental well-being in various ways.

“Continuous work since January. Tired, not sleeping properly. Strange dreams. Drained, trying to support and be upbeat for everyone else.”

“Educators tell us they feel disorientated”

Sinead McBrearty is the CEO of teacher well-being charity Education Support, which commissioned the research. She says that over half of calls made to the charity’s helpline have been related to covid-19.

“We are hearing from those in distress about their schools and their students, about their own health and that of their families, as well as the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus in the school environment,” she said to TES.

“Speculation about an early return to physical school sites, and concern about a lack of consultation from policymakers is fuelling further anxiety.

“Educators want to be back with their pupils and students, but want that return to be safe, planned and properly supported.

“Educators tell us that they feel disorientated, and they recognise that covid-19 has an uneven impact on communities, families and children.”

Stressed teacher

A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “We understand this is a very difficult time for school leaders, teachers and other school staff, and we are enormously grateful for all they are doing to keep children safe during this challenging time.

“Education secretary Gavin Williamson has not set a date for schools reopening and they will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, until the scientific evidence indicates it is the right time to re-open and we have met the five tests set out by the Government to beat this virus.

“We are also working in close consultation with the sector as we consider how we re-open schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right, and will ensure everyone has sufficient notice to plan and prepare.”

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