Teachers fare worse than leaders on stress, workload and wellness – Edurio report


Teachers fare worse than leaders when it comes to stress, workload and wellness, according to extensive new research from Edurio. 


More than 11,000 education professionals across England – teachers, leaders, administrators, teaching assistants and maintenance staff – were surveyed about their wellbeing in the current academic year (Sept 2023 – March 2024).  


The gulf between the overall wellbeing of teachers and school leaders is stark, with double the number of teachers (32%) reporting not feeling well mentally or physically, compared to leaders (15%). 


Furthermore, just over half of leaders (52%) reported feeling well mentally and physically but for teachers this reduced to just a third (32%).


Teachers are most likely to report feeling overworked, with two thirds (63%) reporting they felt overworked very or quite often in the first half of the 2023/2024 academic year. Those in a leadership role are the second most likely group to feel overworked very or quite often, with half (50%) responding so, but still lag some way behind teachers.


Although leaders scored the highest in overall wellbeing measures, they were still the second most stressed group, with 43% saying they felt stressed very often or quite often compared to 52% of teachers. However, access to help was easier for senior leaders than teachers, with two thirds (63%) reporting it was easy to get support for their mental and emotional wellbeing, compared to just a third of teachers (35%). 


Edurio’s report focuses on six wellbeing measures – overall wellbeing, quality of sleep, stress, overwork, getting support with mental and emotional wellbeing, and how excited they felt about their work. Teachers scored the lowest in five of these measures. 


Overall, the research found worrying trends across the school’s workforce. Fewer than 4 in 10 (38%) of all participants reported feeling well, and a quarter (25%) reported feeling not very well or not well at all. More than half (56%) reported feeling stressed very often or quite often, while fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) were rarely or never stressed.


But amidst reports of stress, overwork and health concerns there are points of light. More than half (54%) of teachers reported often feeling excited by the work that they do – the only wellbeing measure where they were not the least positive. Most positive were leadership staff, at 77%, while administrative staff were the least excited by their work, with 43% saying they were excited by their work very or quite often.


The issues raised by the research were echoed in comments from respondents. “The job had become more and more exhausting,” said one, adding: “It is impacting me mentally and my private life with my family.” Another commented: “Everyone is always complaining of feeling knackered or burnt out. I am not alone,” while another added: “Due to workload I feel like I am just surviving and spinning plates.”


There were positive comments about the pleasure of working with children and young people but even some of these had unhappy undertones. One teacher wrote: “There are some moments in the classroom which remind me why I wanted to do this job, but I have to say, over the last few years the negatives of the job have started to outweigh the positives.”


Jonny Uttley, CEO of the Education Alliance multi-academy trust in East Yorkshire, said Edurio’s findings “painted a difficult picture about staff working in schools and their lived experience.” 


He said: “It shows the scale of challenge for school leaders, the education system and for policymakers because wellbeing and how people feel about their work is directly linked to risks around retention and the crisis around recruitment.


“The most disappointing, and surprising, finding for me is that just 9% of teachers say they rarely or never feel stressed, which is a real concern.


“The fact that staff continue to feel excited by their work and have a strong sense of purpose gives me some optimism, but this does underline the fact that the school system has survived through the intrinsic motivation of its staff for a long time now and fundamental issues need to be addressed.


“Change will come if policymakers look at what externally generates workload, including the current accountability system, but it’s also down to leaders to create healthier leadership and work cultures in schools.”


Wellbeing for staff members when defined by protected characteristics

The research also revealed some significant contrasts in levels of wellbeing between staff members when defined by their protected characteristics: 

  • Just a fifth (21%) of disabled staff reported feeling very or quite well, much lower than non-disabled staff where two fifths (43%) felt well. Disabled staff also reported higher stress levels – 56% were very often or quite often stressed, compared to 44% of non-disabled staff.
  • LGBTQ+ staff were more likely to have felt stressed (54%) compared to heterosexual staff (46%). LGBTQ+ staff also scored their overall wellbeing lower, with 1 in 3 (33%) reporting feeling not very well or not well at all, compared to 24% of heterosexual staff.
  • Women were more likely to report feeling stressed (47%) than men (42%) and less likely to say they felt well (39% compared to 46% of men).
  • Staff who are parents reported higher levels of overall wellbeing, lower levels of stress and workload, and were more likely to report feeling excited by their work. However, they did report lower quality of sleep than non-parent staff. These findings are likely linked to the age and role of respondents.
  • Respondents with another gender identity experienced worse wellbeing levels than other groups in all measures. Although the sample was small (41 respondents representing 0.7% of the total 11,000 participants) 70% of staff in this group said they had felt stressed often lately, while 27% said they had found it difficult to get support for their mental wellbeing, compared to 16% of women and 17% of men.

The research data revealed no clear relationship between wellbeing and ethnicity, with staff of different ethnic groups showing no significant differences across the measures.

Iona Jackson, Head of Insights at Edurio said: “Staff wellbeing has been an ever-pressing issue due to the recruitment and retention crisis in the education sector. So, it is vital to understand the lived experience of staff working in education today as it relates to their wellbeing so that we can find solutions and provide support to enhance wellbeing across the education sector.


“The aim of this report is to give school and trust leaders the information they need to create workplaces for their employees that support, take into account varying needs, and provide fulfilment for educating and raising future generations.”


John Murphy, education leadership mentor and former CEO of the 54-school multi-academy trust Oasis Community Learning, said the report was “concerning”.


“The pressures of the accountability system are undoubtedly part of the picture, along with the aftermath of covid which has left a trail of ill health as well as anxiety about health,” he said.


“Teachers want to be – and are ­– society builders but we do not focus enough on helping them and other educational professionals to have happy and healthy lives. If that is properly addressed, they will be in a far better position to help children flourish.


“A systematic approach to reducing pressures on teachers including workload has to be a bigger priority, Smart approaches such as standardised curriculum planning reduces teacher workload and allows teachers to focus more on pedagogy. This professional freedom within a supportive framework approach has to be one of the ways we will help to lessen these pressures.


“Schools are not islands; working together and sharing evidence-based approaches will also raise the status of reaching and attract more people into this great profession.”