‘What should be a beautiful profession has been turned into something ugly and fear-inducing’

Arguably the hottest topic currently within the education industry is the declining mental health of teachers who are drowning in piles of marking and assessments. A sharp incline of professionals leaving their posts in search of a position more enjoyable and less stressful is leading towards a concerning recruitment crisis in United Kingdom schools.
Yet Deborah Spratling, a psychotherapeutic counsellor, told TES how she is concerned that such damage is also being inflicted on pupils with ‘teachers trapped, aware of how things ought to be, but powerless to change their fate until they can find a way to reverse the spell.’
Spratling explained that the current one-dimensional testing system is having a negative psychological impact on young people. ‘Education is so much more than learning to tick a box, yet we are coaching children to excel at standardisation and to develop self-critical mindsets as a result.’
She added, ‘self-criticism has been found to be a key contributor to anxiety and depression, so it is no wonder that we are now facing a mental health crisis.’
With experience of working within the education system, Spratling called for a curriculum that encourages ‘learning how to regulate our emotions and to appreciate our individuality and creativity.’
She also explained how children are likely to reflect the same emotions as their teachers. ‘Their increasing stress levels are putting them in a highly anxious state, which, as we know from neuroscience, can be mirrored by those around them, specifically the children they are teaching.’
With ‘time running out to change the spell’, this is yet more overwhelming backing for the need to change the education system. However, organisations like Evolve are doing what they can to support teachers and pupils alike with specific support in the mental wellbeing domain.
Staff after school clubs with a Health Mentor have proved successful in relieving stress and encouraging teachers to leave behind their trails of work to do something they enjoy. Meanwhile, pupils are supported by engaging and effective mentoring sessions to ensure they are provided with the desired support.