It's no secret that teaching can be a stressful profession. Between managing a classroom of students, preparing lesson plans, and dealing with administrative duties, it's easy to see how teachers can quickly become overwhelmed. In fact, a recent study found that nearly half of all teachers in the UK report feeling stressed on a daily basis. This can not only have a negavive effect on teacher mental health, high levels of teacher stress can also impact the mental health of pupils.

At its worst, stress can lead to burnout, long-term sickness and even leaving the school or profession entirely. This can have significant financial implications for schools in paying for supply costs, recruitment costs and also a huge disruption in learning to pupils.

But even moderate levels of stress can have a negative impact on your staff team and teachers' mental health and wellbeing. That's why it's important to find ways to manage and prevent stress before it gets out of control for your teachers. In this blog post, we'll share some tips for supporting stressed teachers and helping them develop wellbeing as part of a whole-school approach.

Stressed teachers - what is the cause?

Workplace stress is a significant issue for teachers. In fact, stressed teachers are more likely to suffer from burnout and leave the profession entirely. While there are many different causes of workplace stress, there are three primary types: workload stress, organisational stress, and classroom stress.

An excessive demand on time and energy causes workload stress for teachers and staff. This can be due to large class sizes, unrealistic deadlines, or a lack of resources. Organisational stress is caused by factors such as workplace conflict, workplace bullying, a lack of support from senior leaders, or colleagues, scrutiny and high stakes accountability or a lack of autonomy. Classroom stress is caused by disruptive students, challenging behaviour, pupil mental health challenges or difficulty managing the classroom environment.

Because teaching is a stressful profession it is important that help is provided to prevent and support teachers from becoming stressed.

Ways to support stressed teachers

In the field of occupational and work psychology, there are three approaches to tackling workplace stress

Primary stress prevention strategies

Primary prevention strategies involve taking steps to avoid becoming stressed in the first place. It is useful to survey staff and ask them what the main stressors are so they can be identified and reduced. This might include things like managing workload, building team relationships and taking breaks when needed and creating a whole school culture of wellbeing.

Secondary stress prevention strategies

Secondary prevention strategies involve taking steps to identify and address stress early on, before it becomes a problem. This may mean using wellbeing or stress measurement tools to identify staff who are struggling and proving targeted support such as coaching for teacher wellbeing. This might include things like keeping a journal, talking to a trusted friend or colleague, or seeking professional help if needed.

Tertiary strategies

Tertiary strategies involve taking steps to reduce the impact of stress after it has already occurred. This might include things like employee assistance programmes, counselling for teachers and support for workload reduction.

Using a combination of these different prevention strategies, can mitigate the onset of significant teacher stress, our Staff Wellbeing Toolkit programme provides training and resources to help you be able to develop these ways of supporting staff yourself.

Preventing teacher stress

The best way to support teacher stress is to prevent it from developing to unmanageable levels in the first place. However many responses to teacher stress can feel piecemeal or tokenistic or too late. So what can we do to support stressed teachers and improve their wellbeing?

First and foremost, it's important to create a culture of open communication and support within schools. Teachers should feel like they can reach out for help when they're struggling, without fear of judgement or reprisal.

Additionally, schools can provide resources such as wellbeing programmes or stress-reduction classes to help teachers learn how to better manage their stress levels. Finally, it's important to remember that every teacher is different and that not every approach will work for everyone. What's most important is finding what works best for each individual teacher in order to help them achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Schools that have teacher wellbeing at the core of everything they do not only significantly reduce teacher stress and the negative impact of that but also improve pupil and student wellbeing indirectly.

Teacher Stress Tips

There are a number of simple steps that schools can do to help prevent teacher stress. We have created a list of a few practical tips. But for much more practical advice training and resources we recommend you join our Staff Wellbeing Toolkit

  1. Recognize the problem – Acknowledge that stress is a real issue for teachers and understand the common causes of stress in schools
  2. Develop an action plan – Break down what needs to be done into manageable chunks and set realistic goals, this can help prevent overwhelm and help teachers prioritise the most pressing tasks and feel more in control
  3. Prioritize your tasks – List your tasks according to importance, and focus on completing those first, celebrate success and recognise when you have made progress this is essential to help teachers gain a sense of competence at work
  4. Make time for yourself – Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just 5 minutes of stretching, a mindful moment or meditation
  5. Reach out for support – Find a colleague or mentor you can talk with who will offer helpful advice on how to manage stress better
  6. Ask for help when needed – Don’t be afraid to reach out to administrators or other staff members if you need an extra hand

It is important to support teachers manage the effects of stress but supporting them to prevent stress in the first place by developing wellbeing will have lasting impacts not only for school staff but for the whole school community.

To find out more join our Free Webinar: Strategies for Supporting Teacher Wellbeing.

Why is staff and teacher wellbeing important?

“When you prioritise wellbeing and you do invest in it you see the ramifications across the entire school, in staff retention rates, in staff happiness but also in pupil attendance and pupils’ learning – it impacts on everything.” - Senior Assistant Headteacher, ARH Primary.

Teacher wellbeing and student wellbeing are not mutually exclusive – one affects the other. There has been a big push recently to improve the wellbeing of our young people and promote good mental health. At Worth-it, we believe wellbeing should be at the heart of every school or setting – not just the wellbeing of the students but the wellbeing of teachers, school staff and the whole school community.

Teacher wellbeing is key for school mental health

Schools and other educational settings have a duty of care towards all their staff as well as their students. It can be easy, especially in secondary schools and FE colleges, to get caught up in academia, and swept along by the tidal wave of exam pressure that comes with this – staff can be pushed to their limits trying to do their best for the young people they are teaching. We know teaching is a vocation. It is not a job. And it doesn't stop when the bell rings at the end of the day.

All staff in schools and other educational settings need to feel supported, just as students do, to know that there is someone to go to, someone to listen if they haven’t had the best night's sleep, or something has happened in their personal life which is zapping their energy. Staff and teachers need a toolkit for wellbeing and resilience too.

Looking after the wellbeing of teaching and non-teaching staff helps them feel valued and more motivated. If staff are happy within their place of work, children and young people will pick up on this, feel happier and interact with those adults in a more positive way. In turn this improved behaviour impacts the staff in a positive way and reduces stress.

School staff with high levels of wellbeing are less likely to take time off sick with stress, fatigue, or anxiety and, as stress lowers immunity they are less likely to have time off with other ailments too. If staff know their wellbeing is prioritised within their school or setting, they are much more likely to seek support an earlier stage if they’re experiencing overwhelm.

“I’ve never worked somewhere you feel so appreciated and you feel like your voice is being heard. This makes you want to work better and harder.” - Teacher from ARH Primary.
“Because I know I will be supported with my wellbeing it makes me feel appreciated which impacts on my teaching – if my wellbeing is good then my teaching is going to be better.” - Teacher from ARH Primary.

Benefits of supporting teacher wellbeing

Research (1) has shown that developing the wellbeing of teachers and staff develops student wellbeing and vice versa. Happier young people who feel like they belong in a school are much more likely to attend regularly, display positive behaviour, participate in their lessons, build more positive relationships with peers and teachers, and contribute positively to the school community, helping make the school a happier place for themselves, for staff and for other students. Teachers who have fewer behavioural issues to deal with in their classrooms are much more likely to get increased levels of joy and satisfaction from their role.

Higher levels of teacher wellbeing also save your school time and money. Staff with high levels of well-being or more likely to stay and progress at your school, saving significant recruitment costs and time. The need to provide cover for long term stress-related sickness will reduce, one school we worked with saved £21,000 in one year alone on supply teaching costs once that had developed their whole school approach to wellbeing. Staff with good levels of wellbeing are more productive and are better at performing their roles.

"Over the last 5 to 8 years we were losing staff at an alarming rate. However, since our wellbeing project and since we’ve taken on board the Worth-it training we have very high staff retention: we lose very few staff now and have a lot of people wanting to join our staff, which is amazing.” - Head teacher, ARH Primary.

Whole School Wellbeing

Our whole school framework for positive mental health offers a step-by-step process, saving you time, energy and stress, enabling you to audit, plan and take action in developing your whole school approach.  Our system framework helps you figure out your unique starting point and what is already working well in your school.

Our whole school approach is a joined up, strategic approach in which wellbeing underpins all aspects of school life. It’s proactive and preventative, enabling everyone to build strategies for wellbeing. Staff are trained to develop and lead their own wellbeing initiatives by giving them a bit of time to come together as a team and through prioritising what really matters to them and action planning solutions to address these areas. 

Feeling part of a team where you know where to access support is crucial to the wellbeing of teachers and of staff. We can think of a school as one big team all working together and supporting each other to promote wellbeing and reduce the risk of mental ill health. We realise that to embed initiatives can seem a daunting task, but Worth-it are here to support you and offer a flexible and adaptable approach to develop wellbeing in your school or setting.

Take a look at our free example course, produced in collaboration with ARH Primary, to find out more about whole school wellbeing and how it impacts school outcomes and children.

Need support and training to develop teacher wellbeing in your school?

For more information, tips and ideas about developing teacher wellbeing and reducing stress join our Free Webinar: Strategies for Supporting Teacher Wellbeing.

Our staff wellbeing programme provides a toolkit of staff wellbeing and stress management resources, training and activities for you to share with collegues to improve teacher wellbeing

Individual school leaders or mental health leads can join our Wellbeing Club for School Mental Health and Wellbeing Leads. Our DfE approved online membership of on-demand, courses, resources and support to develop staff, pupil and whole school positive mental health and wellbeing today.

References:

1.  Roffey

2.  SEARCH

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