From staff shortages, budget cuts, increased pupil numbers and the pandemic, it is no surprise that stress and burnout in the education sector is a growing issue. Burnout refers to a form of exhaustion caused by elevated levels of constant and prolonged stress. While this happens across all job roles, teacher burnout and stress causes the most disruption to school life. In this blog, we will be walking you through the causes of burnout and how it can affect your school and academy.
Despite the obvious peaks during the pandemic, according to google search data, it shows a 312% annual increase in searches for symptoms of burnout since 2016.
Slowly we are returning to normalcy (or at least our new normal), but after the pandemic there has been substantial room for societal change. This change especially affects the workplace. Taking advantage of this, it is the perfect time to address issues and make positive change in our workplace. So, what can we do to help prevent stress and burnout in the education sector?
To understand this better, let’s discuss the symptoms, potential causes, and tips for prevention.
Causes of Teacher Burnout:
Although many people may believe teachers have it easier because of school holidays, this could not be further from the reality of the average teacher’s workload. The working day does not finish when the last pupil has left the classroom. Teachers must spend hours marking work and planning for future lessons. This workload is now increasing as classroom sizes are growing. In a report on School workforce in England on Gov.uk:
“The secondary school pupil population began rising in 2016 and is projected to continue increasing until 2024.”
As a result, more time is taken out of our teacher’s free time to compensate for this added workload, consequently jeopardising their work-life.
It is also important to note that burnout may be a result of a culmination of things, the workload simply being the last straw. It is important to consider that each employee has a complicated home life and that they could be experiencing high levels of stress in addition to the work. Much like with students, it is safeguarding issue to think about the root causes first. If they are experiencing a loss in their personal life, their professional life will be affected.
Budgets and Lack of Resources
Due to funding pressures faced by most schools, many schools are having to make harsh and potentially detrimental actions to stay within the confines of their budget. Common strategies include replacing experienced teachers with those with less experience, increasing class sizes and reducing numbers of teaching assistants. As a result, 46% of head teachers in London are expecting an impact to quality of teaching as a consequence of budget cuts. This in turn will contribute to a much more stressful working environment for teachers. Especially if they lack the appropriate experience and training, as they try to juggle the additional workload. Unfortunately, it is likely that this will become an increasing issue with the rising cost-of-living.
School Working Culture
Another issue that can effect staff in the education sector is a bad working environment and culture. If someone is struggling and is working in a unsupportive environment, it is likely they will not feel comfortable to reach out for help. As a result their issues and stresses will only get worse and worse. Which unfortunately will bring them to breaking point. Similar to the care sector, teaching is a position with a high workload and high level of individual responsibility. These are two factors that can lead to high-stress which affects behaviour. Disrespect among staff can become common without careful monitoring.
Examples of a bad working environment:
- Unrealistic goals and expectations
- Bad communication
- Not celebrating achievements
- Lack of progression and training
- Poor leadership
Symptoms of Burnout
A teacher suffering from burnout may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Lack of confidence and or self-doubt
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Issues with sleeping resulting in fatigue
- Struggling with motivation
- Inability to perform your job
Tips to Help Prevent Burnout:
Start at the Top
Externally, one of the most important tips for helping prevent burnout and stress in the education sector is just by getting yourself to the polling station. Effecting big change requires big action, which is mostly controlled by the government. Changes in funding, working rights and many other extremely important decisions that can change the everyday working lives of our teachers are decided by the government. So, in order to have a say in the wider picture, it is important to vote.
In addition, Unions have always been a vital part of helping address issues and make change. This is evidenced in the recent rail strikes across the UK. Unions time and time again have proven their worth for advocating for workers fair treatment.
Internally, the same thing applies. Start from the top down. The culture of any organisation is decided by the leadership, policies and practices. Wurkplace often conduct annual audits and reviews to ensure that the correct procedures, policies, and leadership practices are in place. If you are managing a school, it is important that you source external and objective support.
For an individual it is important to make sure there is always an element of growth in your personal and professional development. If this culture is implemented throughout a business, it shows the employee, the company cares about the development and future of its staff by spending the time and resources on them. In addition to this, If you constantly feel out of your depth at work, it can be so overwhelming and take a huge toll on your confidence. Giving staff the up-to date and correct training, it allows them to have the resources and skills to be able to deal with tasks with greater ease. Here at Wurkplace we offer many training courses to help both employers and employees.
Provide Mental Health Support for Teachers and Staff
Over recent years, the importance of mental health has become more widely acknowledged. According to Oxford Mindfulness.org:
“Mental health issues are now the leading cause of sick leave in the UK, accounting for 70 million sick days, more than half of the 130 million total every year.”
It is becoming more accepted that mental health training and support helps create a healthy work culture, where employers and employees are able to have open and constructive communication, to help support each other. Statistically, when people feel supported in the workplace, productivity levels rise, absences lower and turnover of staff lessens.
Also, ensuring employers are giving the correct training, through techniques such as mindfulness, to their staff can help empower people, giving them the tools to help manage their stress. This should in turn help prevent burn-out. Here at Wurkplace we have partnered with well-being practitioner Henri Saha, where we discussed more about the importance of wellbeing in the Wurkplace. To watch our recent webinar on this subject click here.
If you want to hear more about how Wurkplace can help you and your school prevent teacher burnout and create a more positive working environment, click here to get in touch. Or just give us a call on: 0330 400 5490.
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