We are sharing this blog post written for us by Davina Metters, Head of Programme, Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. We hope it might be of use and that you may consider sharing this information with your trainees and/ or NQTs. 

By Davina Metters, Head of Programme, Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

There is no question that teachers are committed to working as hard as ever to support children and young people to flourish and reach their full potential.

As you prepare for a new exciting career in teaching, where every day you will have the opportunity to inspire children and young people, there will inevitably be lots of new information to process and apply.

You will be juggling learning current curriculums, familiarising yourself to a new work environment, and applying these newly acquired skills in a classroom. During these busy times it is important not to lose sight of looking after your own mental health and wellbeing.

While teaching can be immensely rewarding it can also be physically and emotionally draining. At the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, we recognise that newly qualified teachers are often working in challenging contexts for a number of reasons, for instance:

  • Schools are operating in a climate of limited resource.
  • The hours can be long and the workload and pressure great.
  • As well as supporting pupils to achieve academically, staff may encounter children, young people and families who are experiencing complex issues in their lives.
  • There may be serious concerns over safeguarding.
  • There is some evidence to suggest an increase in the prevalence of children’s behavioural and emotional problems over recent years ¹²³.

To summarise, teaching is a tough job!

But why, when concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people are so prevalent, should we care about the wellbeing of school staff?

Aside from the ethical imperative to ensure teachers and their colleagues are well supported when it comes to their own mental health and wellbeing, there are at least three further reasons why we feel it is particularly important and timely to address school staff wellbeing:

  1. The first is that the government’s Green Paper on children’s mental health puts schools at the heart of promoting mental health for young people. To achieve this, schools must first identify the needs of staff and find out why some struggle with the pressures of the job.
  2. Second, there is a growing movement acknowledging the need for employers to promote the mental health of their staff. Mind’s Mental Health at Work campaign, funded by The Royal Foundation, is one example.
  3. Finally, many schools face recruitment and retention issues, and the current interest in staff wellbeing provides an opportunity to look at how improving the experience of staff might contribute to addressing these issues.

10 Steps towards School Staff Wellbeing

We recently carried out a consultation to gain greater understanding of the views and experiences of school staff from around the country through our Schools in Mind network.

The consultation received over 2000 responses and found that:

  • over 60% of staff felt that their work/life balance had caused them unhappiness and stress over the previous fortnight.
  • almost a fifth (19%) of school staff felt that their work never has a positive impact on their mental wellbeing.

The findings were published in November 2018 as part of a new practical resource, Ten steps towards school staff wellbeing.

The resource explores what makes school staff’s working lives challenging, and suggests 10 considerations, based on the views of staff who responded, that schools may wish to bear in mind when approaching staff wellbeing:

  • Is there a staff mental health lead or champion who is responsible for coordinating the school’s approach to staff mental wellbeing, and ensuring it remains on the agenda?
  • Is there a mental health policy that addresses the needs of staff? Is it regularly reviewed? How is the policy embedded and communicated so that all staff are aware of it?
  • How does the ethos of the school promote openness about mental wellbeing, and encourage staff to feel comfortable sharing concerns?
  • Are there opportunities for supervision to help staff feel confident they are taking the right decisions when supporting pupils experiencing complex issues (including safeguarding and mental health, for instance)?
  • Could supervision be offered outside of line management, for those who do not feel comfortable approaching their manager with concerns about their mental wellbeing? Do staff know how to access external sources of support?
  • Could measures to reduce workload or to limit hours spent working outside of the school day be trialled – for example, by reviewing marking policies and email protocols? Does the senior leadership team (SLT) lead by example when it comes to limiting emailing at evenings and weekends?
  • Is there a comfortable, dedicated physical space within the school where staff members can take time out if needed?
  • Are there opportunities for staff to participate in activities with colleagues that are not linked to their work (for example social events, exercise classes, or creative groups)?
  • Is it feasible to introduce a staff wellbeing survey, to help understand the key issues in your school, and the impact of any measures you are taking to support staff wellbeing?
  • Is the mental wellbeing of staff an agenda item at staff and governor meetings?

Year of School Staff Wellbeing

While many schools already do excellent work to promote staff wellbeing, the new focus on children’s mental health serves as an important reminder to us that we must couple support for school staff, with the ambitions we have for children’s wellbeing.

That is why weare calling for 2019 to be a year of wellbeing for school staff. You can support our call by:


View Clare Ely, Head of Service Improvement at the Centre advising on staff wellbeing in schools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H3BLta2e1Y

We would love to hear from you! Get in touch schoolsinmind@annafreud.org


¹ Deighton, J., Lereya, T., Patalay, P., Casey, P., Humphrey, N., & Wolpert, M. (2018). Mental Health Problems in 11-14 year-olds: Results from the first HeadStart annual survey of 30,000 children. London: CAMHS Press.

² 2 Fink, E., Patalay, P., Sharpe, S., Holley, S., Deighton, J., Wolpert, M. (2015). Mental health difficulties in early adolescence: A comparison of two cross-sectional studies in England from 2009 to 2014. Journal of Adolescent Health, 56, 502-507.

³ Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017 (2018) NHS Digital

A PDF version of this blog post from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families can be found here

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