A headteacher from Liverpool has penned a blog about how the job can be an ‘incredibly lonely experience’ – in the process shining a light on the wellbeing of others in the profession. This has manifested into an online support network that already includes over 40 members.
Head Chris McDonald has bared his soul with the blog, citing schools’ diminishing budgets and the lack of clarity over GDPR as two reasons why those in the role have begun to suffer in recent years. He’s now calling for there to be a ‘real acknowledgement’ that headteachers are ‘under real pressure’. He argues: “Often support is only offered to pick up the pieces after things have already fallen apart. But, as someone said to me recently, this is rather like fitting a gas mask to a deceased miner’s canary.”
This is why Chris has created a WhatsApp group for him and others. Now boasting over 43 members with many more invited to join since the blog went live, he believes this support network is helping to relieve the pressure from headteachers.
He writes: “Well first [and] foremost heads need to feel less isolated. They need to feel that there is someone who is wrangling with the same issues they are. Who is on the end of a phone or a WhatsApp and is happy to help and may have the very thing you needed just two clicks away, or is happy to be a listen as you vent your latest frustration.”
Chris’ words are yet more evidence that those in the teaching profession are dealing with unseen levels of pressure in their jobs. It follows a 2017 YouGov poll, which revealed that an alarming 75% of people in the profession had reported symptoms of stress, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks. This compared to just 62% of the general population who are in other lines of work.
The problem appears to have roots dating back to around 2014/15 when schools began to be faced with major budget cuts. In a survey conducted at the time by the Time Educational Supplement, 28% of headteachers involved said that they were planning on leaving the profession within the next five years. This went against the National College of School Leadership survey from 2009, in which 92% of heads said they had a ‘great job’.
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