The devastating impact of excessive teachers’ workload is hitting children’s progress

teaching workload mental health
Fréa Lockley

A new report has revealed that teachers are at breaking point. And the teachers surveyed explained that this can also affect the progress of the children they teach.

Mental health

The survey, conducted by Leeds Beckett University and website Teachwire, set out to explore:

the relationship between teachers’ mental health and their ability to teach and maintain positive relationships with pupils.

And the survey of 775 teachers highlights the implications of stress:

77% said that poor teacher mental health is having a detrimental impact on pupils’ progress.


The survey found that “56% of respondents report they currently have poor mental health”. In 2016-17, 3,750 teachers in England were on “long-term leave for stress”. What this new survey reveals is teachers’ concern about the impact of their mental health on pupils before they are pushed to take time off work. According to the survey:

  • 94% say mental health can have a detrimental impact on their physical energy in the classroom.
  • 73% believe mental health can have a negative impact on the quality of their explanations in lessons.
  • 72% think that their questioning skills in lessons can suffer due to poor mental health.
  • 89% say their mental health can have a detrimental impact on creativity in their teaching.
  • 85% thought their mental health could reduce the quality of their lesson planning.

This survey coincides with new initiatives to support children and young people with mental health issues. On 23 January, the Duchess of Cambridge launched a new website designed by mental-health charities to “improve pupils’ awareness of issues surrounding mental health”.

But the survey of teachers also found that 40% felt their own mental health might “have a negative impact” in supporting “pupils’ mental health needs”.


In 2017, Leeds Beckett University opened the first centre to support mental health training for teachers. Prof Jonathan Glazzard said, in response to the survey:

The results of this survey are quite clear, and it’s time the Government and school leaders took action over reducing workload.

And the Times Educational Supplement (TES) said this survey revealed that:

excessive workload and constant scrutiny are among the causes of mental ill-health among teachers.

A Department for Education spokesperson told TES:

We continue to work with teachers, unions and Ofsted to tackle unnecessary workload and challenge unhelpful practices that create extra work, which includes a programme of targeted support for schools

Enough is enough

The public sector pay cap means many teachers are struggling to get by. There are growing calls from teachers’ unions to demand a government-funded pay rise for teachers. And there’s a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.

What many people don’t see are the long hours that all teachers work to ensure they meet the demands of planning, preparation and marking. And this new survey reveals the true cost of these hours. Enough is enough. Because if teachers are pushed any further, what will happen to our children?

Get Involved!

Find out about the work done by the Education Support Network if you teach or know someone who does.

Featured image via Andrew Imanaka, Flickr

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