The stresses and strains affecting the mental health and wellbeing of those working in education settings are well documented and were evident long before Covid-19 was placed into the mix (Kidger et al., 2016; Stansfeld et al., 2011). During lockdown, a time of rapid transitions to new ways of teaching covering all aspects, from delivering a lesson online to interacting with students remotely, many of the known contributing factors of poor health and wellbeing among teachers (Kyriacou, 2011) were foregrounded and exacerbated. For example, teachers were required to deal with the unexpected and not being in control, keep up with the pace of change, and manage personal crises (Glazzard & Rose, 2019; Maitland & Glazzard, 2022). At the same time, many of the effective coping strategies, such as talking to friends and family and limiting the amount of time spent on schoolwork at home, were unavailable. Indeed, teachers, arguably more than any public-sector workers, had no separation between work and home during the pandemic. Combined, these made the perfect conditions for a mental health crisis in our schools. As the urgency of Covid-19 rescinded and schools reopened after lockdowns, teachers faced another challenging transition: how to rebuild their relationships with their colleagues, their pupils and their families in a post-Covid-19 world. Unlike the transition into lockdown, the transition out has been slow, with many teachers being required to deliver hybrid lessons both in the classroom and online simultaneously, for some time, leading to a new set of stresses that did not exist pre-pandemic. It has been a time of adjustment for teachers and pupils alike.
‘Children learn most effectively when their teacher is in good mental health and is a consistent presence in the classroom (Glazzard & Rose, 2019).’
The children have also had to cope with transitions due to circumstances not of their making, most of which have been detrimental to both their learning and social development, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The teacher–pupil relationship, particularly in primary schools, is not only important but should be viewed as a two-way contract. When this contract is disrupted, as it was during the pandemic, so are the chances of the pupil progressing and attaining their full potential. Children are keenly aware when their teachers are happy and when they are not (Glazzard & Rose, 2019). Children learn most effectively when their teacher is in good mental health and is a consistent presence in the classroom (Glazzard & Rose, 2019). Teachers are now in the position of having to reengage and remotivate pupils in the school learning environment while at the same time managing behaviour and correcting bad habits that have manifested and developed as a result of children being out of the school setting and its routines for extended periods of time over the past two years. This is inevitably leading to increased stress and anxiety for both teachers and pupils, and it is going to take time for everyone to readjust during this post-pandemic transition.
With one in six children now experiencing poor mental health (NHS Digital, 2020), it is vital that schools prioritise wellbeing as a matter of urgency. Many schools are now doing this. Children need a wellbeing curriculum which educates them about how to stay mentally healthy and which provides them with strategies to manage mental ill-health. Many schools are also empowering young people to be leaders of mental health. Schools which provide children and staff with autonomy and foster a sense of connection are providing the best conditions for individuals to flourish. Initiatives to support staff wellbeing should result in deep and meaningful changes which enable staff to thrive.
Glazzard, J., & Rose, A. (2019). The impact of teacher wellbeing and mental health on pupil progress in primary schools. Leeds Beckett University.
Kidger, J., Brockman, R., Tilling, K., Campbell, R., Ford, T., Araya, R., King, M., & Gunnell, D. (2016). Teachers’ wellbeing and depressive symptoms, and associated risk factors: A large cross-sectional study in English secondary schools. Journal of Affective Disorders, 192, 76–82.
Kyriacou, C. (2011). Teacher stress: From prevalence to resilience. In J. Langan-Fox & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Handbook of stress in the occupations (pp. 161–173). Edward Elgar.
Maitland, J., & Glazzard, J. (2022). Finding a way through the fog: School staff experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cambridge Journal of Education, 52(5), 555–577.
NHS Digital. (2020). Mental health of children and young people in England, 2020: Wave 1 follow up to the 2017 survey. https://bit.ly/3myohMp
Stansfeld, S. A., Rasul, F., Head, J., & Singleton, N. (2011). Occupation and mental health in a national UK survey. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 46(2), 101–110.