Higher Anxiety Levels for Headteachers During the Pandemic

The study, conducted by UCL and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, surveyed 1,056 headteachers and 3,420 classroom teachers in England between December 2020 and January 2021. It found that anxiety about work increased substantially for headteachers during the pandemic – from 26 per cent in March 2020 to 65 per cent in January 2021. For classroom teachers, anxiety rose from 19 per cent to 42 per cent over the same period.

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The research also found that headteachers were more likely than classroom teachers to report symptoms of depression, with one in five (20 per cent) reporting high levels of depression in January 2021, compared with 12 per cent of class teachers.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Becky Allen, co-author of the report and director of Education Datalab, said: “These findings should be a wake-up call. The mental health of our school leaders is in crisis.

“Headteachers are facing significant increases in anxiety and depression, likely to have knock-on effects on their ability to lead schools effectively. This is particularly concerning given the challenges that schools are currently facing.

“It is vital that we do everything we can to support headteachers during this challenging time. We need to ensure they have access to the resources and support they need to cope with the job demands.”

The study also found that headteachers were more likely than classroom teachers to report symptoms of depression, with one in five (20 per cent) reporting high levels of depression in January 2021, compared with 12 per cent of class teachers.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Becky Allen, co-author of the report and director of Education Datalab, said: “These findings should be a wake-up call. The mental health of our school leaders is in crisis.

“Headteachers are facing significant increases in anxiety and depression, likely to have knock-on effects on their ability to lead schools effectively. This is particularly concerning given the challenges that schools are currently facing.

headteacher

“It is vital that we do everything we can to support headteachers during this challenging time. We need to ensure they have access to the resources and support they need to cope with the job demands.”

The study comes as schools in England prepare to reopen for all pupils next week after more than two months of closure during the pandemic.

Headteachers’ union leader Paul Whiteman said the findings were “deeply worrying” but unsurprising.

“The last year has been the most challenging in living memory for school leaders, who have had to navigate their way through an ever-changing landscape, often with little or no support from the government,” he said.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on headteachers’ mental health and wellbeing, with many reporting increased stress and anxiety levels. This is deeply worrying but not surprising.

“Headteachers have been working tirelessly to keep schools open for children and young people, often in challenging circumstances. They have had to make tough decisions without the guidance or support they need from the government.

“It is vital that we do everything we can to support headteachers during this challenging time. We need to ensure they have access to the resources and support they need to cope with the job demands.”

The study comes as schools in England prepare to reopen for all pupils next week after more than two months of closure during the pandemic.

Headteachers’ union leader Paul Whiteman said the findings were “deeply worrying” but unsurprising.

“The last year has been the most challenging in living memory for school leaders, who have had to navigate their way through an ever-changing landscape, often with little or no support from the government,” he said.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on headteachers’ mental health and wellbeing, with many reporting increased stress and anxiety levels. This is deeply worrying but not surprising.

What should be done to support headteachers during this challenging time? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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