UK: Urgent need to address negative impacts of teaching on teachers

published 24 April 2017 updated 15 May 2017

Education unions in the UK have reasserted the need to support overworked teachers, helping them to reach an adequate balance between their professional and personal lives.

NASUWT: Teaching takes “unacceptable toll” on health and wellbeing

Significant issues over teachers’ work-life balance have been revealed in a survey by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

Over two-thirds  of teachers (68 per cent) say their job prevents them from giving adequate time to their partner, family and friends. Over half (58 per cent) say their family and friends get fed up with the pressures that teaching puts on their relationship.


More than four out five teachers (84 per cent) say that they frequently worry about work problems when they are not working; just 11 per cent are able to relax at home. Over half (56 per cent) say their job satisfaction has declined in the last 12 months.

The pressures of teaching are sapping teachers’ morale and energy with more than four out of five teachers (83 per cent) saying their job has had an adverse impact on their wellbeing. Over half do not look forward to going to work and a similar number of teachers are often too worn out to give their job their best effort.

Mental health

Nearly six in 10 teachers (59 per cent) say their job has adversely impacted on their mental health in the last 12 months. One in two teachers say it has had a detrimental impact on their physical health. Moreover, teachers report turning to medication, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine to help them cope with their job – 22 per cent report increased use of alcohol, 22 per cent have increased their use of caffeine, and five per cent increased their use of tobacco to help them manage work-related stress.


“It is clear that, for too many teachers, the job is taking an unacceptable toll on their health and wellbeing and that this is affecting all aspects of their personal and professional lives,” said NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates.

She noted that if most teachers are unable to relax away from work and feel constantly worn down and worried about work issues, their mental and physical health is inevitably going to suffer and they will not be able to give their best to the children they teach.

Employers have a responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of their staff but few address this seriously, she said. The driving factors behind the rise in teacher stress, including excessive workload and working hours, need to be effectively addressed by Government, she said. This must be done in order “to tackle the growing epidemic of low morale, burnout and stress which is conspiring to make teaching an increasingly unattractive profession”.

NUT: Teachers work over 54 hours per week

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has also insisted that teacher workload is at unprecedented levels. It reiterates that the most recent Department for Education (DfE) teacher workload survey showed teachers working on average 54.4 hours a week.

“We are losing far too many good teachers,” said NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney. “An exhausted, dispirited teacher is not what children or parents want or deserve.”

The NUT’s campaign to make the Government lift the pressures on teachers and schools is beginning to secure some outcomes, he acknowledged. However, “far too little is still being done to reform the high-stakes accountability system that is the root cause of excessive workload.”

Collective action

While the NUT continues to press for decisive Government action to reduce the demands on teachers, the union believes it is important that teachers themselves also take the steps available to them to bring about improvements at school level, particularly by acting collectively.

The DfE poster and pamphlet on reducing teacher workload can be found here