As the festive season ebbs into distant memory, accompanied by all of its good cheer, people are once more ready to feel bad about things. Cue a slew of articles last week once more highlighting the stress epidemic gripping the profession.
What’s new here? Not much, except that stress is spreading. Metastatic, its migrated to engulf 5% more of the profession on 2016-17 with no signs of potential remission. Be under no illusions, folks: Blue Monday may be a myth, but the stress epidemic is very much real. A quick executive summary of the facts as gleaned from the main reports:
- One in 83 teachers (3,750 in total) are on long-term leave for stress and mental health issues (a 5% increase on 2015-16)
- 3 million days have been taken off by teachers for stress and mental health reasons in the last four years, including around 312,000 in 2016-17
- Six in 10 teachers say their job has impacted on their mental health in the past 12 months, and many reported turning to alcohol, medication and other drugs as a coping strategy
These figures ought to shock, but we’ve become strangely desensitised to their full force. What’s worse, to those in and around the profession they may even seem somewhat conservative.
Nevertheless, this is our generation of educators’ great crisis. Not only is stress widely cited as one of the main reasons for the rapid atrophy of the profession, with teachers defecting out the classroom or simply being repelled from entering in the first place, it is undermining our very ability to do our jobs even to close to competently. Which in real terms is a whole generation of young people missing out on the high-quality education we are called to give them.
As such, the issue warrants a sober and serious discussion, away from hysterical generalisations and hackneyed tropes. Teacher Booker will be hosting just such a discussion in a series of articles on our blog, focusing on the origins of the stress pandemic. Our ambitions are humble – we want to enrich and elevate the discourse, not settle it entirely. Although we are motivated by the urgency of the issue, we defer to one of the great lessons of our experience: proper understanding of a problem is prior to any true solution to it.
- Stupid things people say about stress: A Defence Manual for Teachers
- Breaking the Silence on Behaviour: The real reason for Teacher Stress
- An Educator For All Seasons: Are we expecting too much from our teachers?