11 December 2019
During a recent event on mental health and wellbeing in education, members of DARTp revealed some of the stark issues currently affecting teachers, academics, researchers and students.
Helen Kitching, chair of the the Division of Academics, Researchers, and Teachers - DARTP - highlighted how the acute low level of funding at schools across the country is having a massive impact on the mental health of teachers and students alike.
Helen says that the increased workload is causing many teachers to suffer from chronic mental health and wellbeing issues.
On top of the everyday issues facing teachers, childhood poverty is now entering classrooms across the country.
Many teachers talked about an increasing number of children arriving at school hungry, inadequately dressed for the weather and tired.
Some teachers also reported that more children between 4- 5 years old are coming into foundation classes without being potty trained at home first.
These pressures are forcing teachers into many additional roles, such as informal therapist and social worker. These extra responsiblities, added to an unrelenting teaching remit, is having a profound affect on the mental health and wellbeing of teachers.
Helen also spoke candidly about research that highlights how teachers stress levels are absorbed by students.
Increased cortisol levels have been identified in students when their teachers are stressed and burned out. Elevated levels of the stress hormone - cortisol - is known to lead to brain fog which can hamper students learning.
Many teachers at the event were concerned about how meeting the needs of Ofsted, often leads schools to micro manage. This in turn can lead to a level of professsional discomfort for teachers in their own classroom.
Many of the teachers reported that when the ability to teach in their own style is undermined, it results in them feeling stressed, unsupported and less confident as a teacher.
Helen Kitching reflects the realities of many teachers when she informs BPS comms that instead of teachers going off sick with mental health issues, they often stay at work, and simply 'carry on' because of the unspoken pressure not to go off.
Helen Kitching is also concerned about the pressure that is piled on teachers before they have even entered the classroom.
Teachers at the well attended DARTP event talked about being asked to guarantee grades A* - B at as early as job interview stage.
Helen Kitching explains that supporting teacher and student mental health and wellbeing seems to feature lower down on the strategic agenda than performance reviews and school responses to parental pressure for good grades.
DARTP is calling for schools to set up mental health leads to support students and teachers alike.