Some students will be anticipating the opportunity to relay the stories of their holiday exploits with great excitement, exaggeration and embellishments, while others will be worried, nervous and anxious as they embark on adventures into the unfamiliar territory of a new school with its unknown faces and high expectations.

The educational staff – the teachers, the heads of departments, the classroom assistants, the clerical workers, and all the other employees who keep the wheels of the education system spinning are not immune to those mixed emotions. That joy parents have when the holidays are coming to an end knowing that soon your children’s constant complaints of being bored or hungry will stop, your ears will get a rest from hearing their choice of music or worse – the tuneless singing to the music, or the concern about their safety.

They too will also be worried, nervous and anxious. The overall health and well-being of educational staff is a serious matter, but unfortunately it does not get the attention that it deserves. A study was undertaken by the NASWTU Union of 4,908 teachers in the UK and six in ten teachers said that in the last 12 months the job had negatively affected their mental health and one in ten teachers were taking antidepressants to cope with work-related stresses.

As the daughter of a retired teacher, I know only too well how much hard work most teachers put in on a day-to-day basis, and the sacrifices they make to cope with their ever-increasing workloads. I have seen my mother come home completely exhausted after a day at work.

She was teaching classes that were too large, having to cope with administrative issues, office politics, non-functioning or inadequate equipment, and give extra attention to those children struggling with lower level intellectual cognizance and behavioural challenges. She was teacher, social worker, counsellor, mediator and sometimes nurse while at school, and then come home to be a mother to her own moody, often mischievous, adolescent children.

She would prepare dinner, listen to our woes and protestations, help with homework (we decided to do it), deal with our outbursts of sibling rivalry and our father’s shenanigans, and still have do lesson planning or marking students’ assignments. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

The demands of teaching are unique. Educational staff are expected to not only set examples for their students, but to respond to their needs sensitively, compassionately and empathetically even as they cope with issues of workloads, staff shortages, redundancies, lack of resources and bullying. All of which can take a toll on the mental well-being of the staff and some will succumb to alcohol and drug misuse, prescription medication dependency, self-harm, suicide ideation or destructive behaviours.

It is evident that to achieve high-quality education, the emotional and mental health of the staff must be factored into any plans, policies or practice.

Dr Yansie Rolston FRSA is a UK-based disability and mental health specialist advisor. She is a social strategist and trainer who works internationally at various levels of government, business and civil society. Contact her at [email protected] efficacyeva.com

Sarkis Mohsen

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