London, UK - The number of teachers who rate their school as ‘happy and healthy’ has increased by 14% since last year, with more than four in five (85%) UK teachers feeling positive about the health and happiness of their school community in 2020 despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.
These new findings, released today from learning company Pearson, are based on the views of more than 1,000 UK teaching staff sought both before and after the emergence of Covid-19 in the UK(1). The research reveals that when it comes to building a healthy and happy school community in the wake of the pandemic, pupil mental wellbeing is the most important factor, with two-thirds (65%) of teachers stating this.
The majority (82%) of teachers are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their student’s mental health, with more than a third (35%) ‘very concerned’. Over half (56%) have witnessed a rise in the number of students suffering from anxiety since the outbreak began.
Despite these concerns, three-quarters of teachers (75%) are confident in their ability to support pupils’ mental wellbeing. They also have greater confidence in the role of education more broadly, with the percentage of teaching staff in 2020 who are confident that the system is providing pupils with the best outcomes and supporting them to succeed after leaving up by 15% and 3% respectively from the previous year.
Speaking about the findings, Sharon Hague, Senior Vice-President for UK Schools at Pearson, said: “While we have seen unprecedented challenges in education this year with schools, parents and pupils going above and beyond to continue learning over lockdown, this period of uncertainty has reinforced just how much we value our education system and the profound impact our schools and teachers have on learning and society as a whole.”
“Schools themselves have seen a shift in priorities too. Where in December 2019 teachers believed having more support staff would most improve the health and happiness of their school, fast forward and today teachers want a greater focus on supporting mental health and wellbeing, with ring-fenced time in the curriculum. They also believe that having strong relationships with their local communities is just as important as academic achievement when it comes to building a healthy and happy school. Ultimately, the findings showcase the unwavering commitment of teachers to support their students and wider communities, whatever may come their way.”
Pearson’s research points to the need for a whole-school approach to supporting mental health, with concerns spanning beyond pupils to staff, parents and carers too. Despite teachers placing greater importance on pupil mental wellbeing and a safe environment than their own staff wellbeing, over half (51%) of teachers say their mental health and wellbeing has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, with a further two-thirds (66%) anxious about their return to school this month under the pandemic guidelines. Seven in 10 (71%) teachers are also worried about the wellbeing of students’ parents and carers following the pandemic too.
Sharing his view on mental health and wellbeing in schools following Covid-19, teacher and author, Ben Aldridge said: "Covid-19 has certainly shown us where we need to focus our attention. In education there has been a serious increase in mental health awareness and this is an incredibly positive outcome. The pandemic has presented schools with an opportunity to teach important lessons on mental health and wellbeing. I believe that teachers are rising to the challenge and this fills me with hope. I feel proud to be part of an education system that offers a safe and supportive environment for students during these unprecedented times."
Sharon Hague at Pearson concluded: “As the findings demonstrate, it is important that schools adopt a whole-school approach to supporting mental health and wellbeing. The emotional health of teachers, leaders, support staff and parents is just as critical to fostering a healthy and happy school environment. At Pearson, we are committed to working with learners, educators and experts to support this and have provided a host of free resources and a Mental Health Toolkit for schools to draw on as we all negotiate the impact of these extraordinary times.”
To find out more about the research and access Pearson’s Wellbeing Zone and new Mental Health Toolkit, which includes free resources and support for educators and learners, please visit: go.pearson.com/WellbeingZone
(1) Two surveys of 1,000+ UK teaching staff took place between 10-17th December 2019 and 31st July - 17th August 2020. More details about the research can be viewed below.
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About the research
Pearson surveyed 1003 UK teaching staff between 10-17th December 2019 and 1,000 UK teaching staff between 31st July - 17th August 2020. The fieldwork was completed by leading polling organisation Opinium. Teaching staff includes, school leaders, middle leaders, classroom teachers, teaching assistants and other pupil-facing roles. Data tables can be found at the bottom of this release.
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