For perfectly understandable reasons we hear a lot about teachers suffering from higher stress and how it affects them. Indeed, several of the bigger teacher’s unions have expressed concerns over time that teachers are finding it more and more difficult to cope with this ridiculous exam-based system that always strives to just hit the next target.
I call it ‘The Exam Factory System’ – where you go in one end, learn a load of facts and get shovelled out the end. Of course, that is primarily the pupil’s task, but the system has been politicised to the degree that teachers are held accountable for every little error, rather than every little success.
The result, rather worryingly, is that teachers are more stressed out, work longer hours and have a falling morale. Sad reality, eh?
That said, sometimes it’s easy to forget the other major group of people involved in all of this – the students and pupils.
Pupil-related stress is something that we’ve considered and discussed before here at Superprof, and have – on occasion – offered some advice on how to cope with it. Normally our advice coincides with the exam period as that is when pupils/students are normally under the most stress. Of course, I also do realise that in practice students are under pressure most of the time anyway. so the stresses of exams is perhaps not seeing the bigger picture.
It is also made all the more interesting – and concerning – when figures on pupil anxiety get released for all of us to shake our heads at. The latest figures were published by the BBC right in the middle of last term’s exam period – not a hint of irony there or anything.
Either way, we’ve managed to dissect the survey and understand exactly what’s going on in schools. 1,131 headteachers from up and down the country were asked about mental health and anxiety among their students – this is what they found:
- Four out of five headteachers in England are concerned about pupils in their schools suffering from anxiety disorders
I guess we must open up with the big one – that the vast majority of heads in England are worried that many students are suffering from anxiety disorders. That’s not just anxiety or being concerned – the question specifically asked about anxiety disorders, which of course makes the whole thing sound a lot more serious.
Anxiety disorders go beyond merely being stressed out about different things and becomes something more troubling, where it begins to affect people physically and emotionally. The news that 80% of headteachers think such a problem exists in schools is something that I find particularly worrying.
- 64% saw pupil depression as an issue
The word ‘depression’ is often a word used too lightly in modern society, but let us for a moment assume that headteachers understand depression and how much it affects people.
If this is the case and nearly two-thirds of headteachers think their pupils are depressed, then it points to some serious problems in the exam and schooling system. Education should inspire and be fun and exciting, if presenting a challenge. It should prepare kids for the long road ahead through life. Obviously, you have to consider what a headteacher considers a problem. That said, if this is the result and school kids are actually depressed. You have to wonder what part of education is failing them.
- 41% thought that their school had issues with eating disorders. It’s more prevalent in secondary schools than primary schools.
Eating disorders are one of the toughest things we as a nation have had to deal with when it comes to kid’s health. It’s a very sensitive issue and it’s very difficult to predict.
Schools have healthy eating campaigns and the like and from memory they taught us all about eating the right things and all that. There was nothing in my time about eating disorders and being mindful of it – perhaps it’s beginning to show now.
- 51% expressed concern about self-harming in their school
It’s desperately sad to see and it’s unfortunately something I saw at my school when I was younger. Whatever the reasons behind it, it’s clear that not enough is being done to spot the signs and help school kids in need. It’s worrying that headteachers see something like this as a concern – does this mean that they aren’t (or can’t) doing enough to ensure that people get the appropriate help?
There is some support available from the NHS for young people, chief among which is the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs). The idea is that kids from schools can be referred to camhs for support and advice.
However, according to the report, the system does appear to be struggling:
- 45% of people referred to the system had to wait between 1-3 months for their case to be followed up.
- 26% had to wait between 3-6 months.
- 9% had to wait more than 6 months for their case to be reviewed. Shocking.
Why is it that we seem content to fail so many young people around mental health and the pressures of being at school? It seems that headteachers are trying to make us all aware of some of the serious problems that they’re seeing in schools, but at the same time it’s clear that many aren’t getting the follow-up support to help their pupils. I mean, nearly 1-in-10 having to wait most of an academic year to be seen is ridiculous.
The problem is that Camhs only gets 0.6% of the total NHS budget, which I find rather shocking. It’s clear that so man people are being let down by lack of funding and that schools don’t seem to know where to turn. The only real positive I can find is that so many teachers are realising that there are issues in their schools. It seems ironic that the realisation of a serious problem can be seen as a good thing, but at least it allows us to get the dialogue started and support where it’s needed.