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(UK) Headteachers reduced to "anger and despair"; behavior problems 'really escalating'

Dec 31, 2022, Guardian: ‘Exhausted, broken, at risk of heart attacks’: UK headteachers quit as cuts push them to the edge With a strike ballot looming, school leaders say erosion of services for children and families has made their jobs untenable
Headteachers are breaking down in tears, suffering migraines and even passing out, with six in 10 admitting they have considered changing jobs in the past year because of increased level of stress.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union says more school leaders than ever before are considering leaving the profession, and “fewer and fewer” middle leaders are aspiring to take on the job because they see how punishing it is. They are balloting members on strike action, with a deadline of 11 January, but a spokesperson said school closures would remain a “last resort”. Scottish teachers took strike action last month and have more days of action planned in the next few weeks. Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, told the Observer: “The anger and even despair we are hearing from our members right now is unprecedented. School leaders are telling me they cannot continue to run their schools in the current circumstances.”

An annual survey of wellbeing of school staff in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, published before Christmas by the charity Education Support, found stress had reached epidemic proportions among heads, with 87% of senior leaders saying they had experienced poor mental health as a result of their work, and 58% saying they had actively sought to change or leave their jobs in the past year….

She wrote that she is “exhausted by the continued battles” as a result of 10 years of cuts to school funding and the “relentless reduction” of other public services supposed to be helping children and their families.

Her letter ends: “I no longer want to work for a government that is so out of touch with reality and treats my profession and our children with such contempt.”

Headteacher Catherine Barker (not her real name) had to pull over to be sick in the road when she was driving her son to university last term. The pressure of running a primary school with a chronic shortage of money was causing her blood pressure to rise, and most days she was waking up with a migraine….

“I’m going to a school with the same social issues and financial pressures,” Barker says. “They had Ofsted this spring, and the head collapsed in front of the inspector because she was so stressed she hadn’t slept or eaten.”

Brian Walton, headteacher at Brookside Academy in Street, Somerset, says running a school should be “the best job in the world”, but he plans to resign this year because he thinks “the whole system is broken”. “I’ve been a headteacher for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he says.

Walton’s school, a large primary academy with a special school attached, is full, and he is struggling with a serious shortage of support staff and teachers. Yet what is overwhelming him most is dealing with the social issues that schools are now expected to manage on their own.

“When the services that are supposed to deal with crime, social care and mental health aren’t working, it is schools who end up on the frontline,” he says. “Families don’t know where to turn for help.”

He says he has never seen so many of their families relying on food banks. “People are coping with anxiety and mental health problems. Behaviour problems in school are really escalating.”…

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that the government‘s extra investment in schools next year will be “the highest real-terms spending in history, totalling £58.8bn by 2024/25”.


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