More than one-third of teachers have lost enthusiasm for the job since pandemic began, poll suggests

‘It has been utterly relentless and extremely demanding,’ union leader tells Zoe Tidman

Thursday 11 March 2021 14:29 GMT
State school teachers were more likely than private school teachers to report a loss of enthusiam for job in survey
State school teachers were more likely than private school teachers to report a loss of enthusiam for job in survey (Getty Images)

More than one-third of teachers have lost enthusiasm for their job over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

The figure was higher among those at state schools, with 39 per cent saying they felt less passionate about their career compared to 26 per cent from private schools, the poll found.

The findings came in the same week schools in England welcomed pupils back following two more months of learning from home.

All pupils have been allowed to return to school from 8 March, after all but the vulnerable and children of key workers were told to study at home in early January as the country went into lockdown.

In the poll conducted towards the end of February, 85 per cent of teachers said they had been feeling overwhelmed or anxious as a result of working remotely.

Thirty-five per cent said they felt less or no longer passionate about teaching compared to before the pandemic, in the survey of about 1,200 teachers by digital learning platform Quizlet.

Meanwhile, just over half who they still felt as enthusiastic about their career as they did a year ago.

Three-quarters of participants said their workload had increased over the course of the pandemic, while 62 per cent said their stress levels had risen compared to March 2020.

Geoff Barton, from the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL), told The Independent: “Teachers have done a fantastic job during the course of the pandemic – teaching pupils remotely, staffing in-school provision for vulnerable and key worker children, and coping with a host of safety measures so that schools can open more widely.”

He added: “It has been utterly relentless and extremely demanding, and the impact on mental health is clear from the findings of this survey.

“We are sure that school leaders will be very conscious of how their staff are feeling and will be doing everything possible to support them.”

One headteacher told The Independent that last term staff were “tired” as they adapted to a “relentless” school day amid coronavirus safety measures, as schools started the current academic year in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis.

The past year has seen rows erupt over coronavirus vaccies, with education unions saying they were “disappointed” to find out last month teachers would not be prioritised for the vaccine due to their occupation, and over a public sector pay freeze, which one union leader warned could be a “final straw” and lead to an “exodus” from the profession.

Concerns have also been raised that educators could face extra work and pressure after it was announced grades would be teacher-assessed this year.

Earlier this month, it was revealed Gavin Williamson was considering the possibility of changing the school calendar and introducing a five-term year as part of “catch-up” plans.

The education secretary also recently suggested a longer school day could be introduced to help children recover lost learning.

The vast majority – 88 per cent –  of teachers told Quizlet they felt changing the length of the summer holidays or extending the length of the teaching day under catch-up plans would negatively impact the mental health of educators, while three-quarters said the same for pupils’ mental health.

Experts have called for children’s play to be prioritised instead of extra lessons in the holidays to support mental health and have criticised the catch-up narrative as putting “huge” pressure on students.

“We hope that mental health will improve as the threat of coronavirus recedes and life returns to something which feels more normal,” Mr Barton of the ASCL told The Independent.

“But it would obviously be negatively impacted, both for staff and children, if schools are suddenly required – on top of everything else – to operate extended days and an extended summer term.”

The union leader added: “ We urge the government to rule out this possibility and to bring an end to the unhelpful speculation that this is something which may be imposed on schools.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We know teachers and all education staff have gone above and beyond over the past year, and are incredibly grateful for all they have done to support children and young people during this difficult time.”

They added: “We have taken a wide range of action to address teacher workload and wellbeing and invested millions in mental health charities to support teachers. This includes an £8mn training programme run by experts to tackle the impact of coronavirus on pupils, parents and staff.”

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