Teachers have said they are facing “unmanageable” levels of stress and workload, before the result of a crucial vote that could trigger further strikes and school closures in England in the coming weeks.
Some teachers surveyed by the National Education Union (NEU) reported turning to antidepressants to cope, while 48% said their workload was unmanageable all or most of the time. In contrast, just 1% of teachers said their workload was always manageable.
The findings come as the NEU’s annual conference on Monday will learn if its members have voted to reject the government’s pay offer, which would lead to strikes on Thursday 27 April and Tuesday 2 May.
NEU members in England have been balloted on whether to accept the government’s offer last month of a one-off £1,000 payment for this year and a 4.3% pay rise for most teachers from September, with the government also offering a new taskforce to explore cutting teachers’ workloads.
Members of the NASUWT teaching union as well as the National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders are also being consulted on the offer.
The almost 18,000 teachers and support staff in England and Wales who responded to the NEU’s survey said workload and stress were major issues that appeared to be getting worse compared with previous surveys.
Nearly two-thirds of teachers in England said they “very often” worried about their wellbeing, a significant rise compared with the results of a similar NEU survey two years ago when fewer than half said they were very often worried.
The NEU joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “We have known for a number of years that workload is the number one reason teachers decide to leave the profession, and it remains a major concern for support staff also. It is a key driver of the recruitment and retention crisis, where talented graduates suffer burnout within just a few years of qualifying.”
The NEU’s results echo the findings of an unpublished survey for the Department for Education (DfE), revealed by Schools Week. The DfE’s survey found that one in four teachers in England were considering leaving the state sector in the next year, with almost all blaming high workload. The pressure of Ofsted inspections and government policy changes were also blamed by large numbers, followed by pay.
The DfE’s survey also found that more than one in five teachers were working 60 hours or more each week during term time. Three-quarters of the 11,000 teachers and school leaders surveyed said they had “unacceptable” workloads and spent too much time on administration.
Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said the results would “alarm parents across this country and could be disastrous for children’s education”.
The NEU’s delegates to the annual conference in Harrogate will also meet the union’s new general secretary, Daniel Kebede, after his victory in the members’ ballot.
Kebede, a primary school teacher, won in a landslide among the 9% of members who voted in the first leadership contest since the NEU was formed in 2017, after the merger of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.