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City and Education Support Partnership team up to urges teachers to talk and protect wellbeing

Pressures on the profession can be heightened at this time of year after a stressful autumn term

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

City, University of London and the Education Support Partnership, a leading charity supporting teachers, have collaborated to encourage teachers to share concerns if they have them whilst ensuring they take time to protect and improve their wellbeing during the festive break.

Last year in the lead-up to Christmas and the new year period, the charity supporting the health and wellbeing of those working in the sector received over two and a half thousand calls to its confidential helpline, with January being its busiest month.

TeachingThe particular pressures on the profession can be heightened at this time of year after a stressful autumn term, particularly for newly qualified teachers. City researchers and the charity are also urging teachers and others working in education to talk about problems before they reach a crisis which many are already experiencing by the time they get in touch with us and speak to one of our specialist counsellors.

Anna, a senior helpline counsellor who has supported many teachers through the 24-hour service said:

When someone calls, we can often talk to them for up to an hour to bring them out of the state of crisis. But it can take a crisis situation for a breakthrough moment to happen, where a person can stop and say something has to give.”

The call follows recently research conducted by City, University of London in close collaboration with Education Support Partnership, confirming the importance of the Christmas break as a prevention to teacher burnout and exhaustion, helping to restore psychological health and energy.

Led by Dr Paul Flaxman and Sonja Carmichael, two organisational psychology researchers at City, the study found that those who managed to successfully ‘switch off’ from work over Christmas - and were able to satisfy the basic psychological needs for a sense of competence, autonomy, and feeling close to others - felt the benefits to their well-being not only during the break but into the first few weeks of January too.

Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership, said:

“We talk to thousands of teachers, lecturers and support staff and others working in the education sector every year we are only too aware of the stresses and strains of the job and of how it can easily become overwhelming. We want to encourage anyone in the sector facing a personal or professional crisis to talk and get support if you need it. At the same time, we are sending a reminder of the importance of making time for yourself during the festive period and doing things you enjoy to restore your sense of ‘self’ before the new challenges and joys of the new term.”

Dr Paul Flaxman said:

“It has been fascinating studying teachers’ experiences of breaks from work, such as Christmas and half-term here in the UK and Spring Break in the US. Our data indicate that these regular breaks are absolutely crucial for maintaining teachers’ mental health and reducing the risk of burnout.

“Our research has also highlighted an issue with some teachers continuing to worry and ruminate about work during non-work time. If you are someone who tends to worry or ruminate about things, we recommend mindfulness training. This can help to ensure we do not get too ‘caught up’ in unhelpful cycles of negative thinking, thereby improving our well-being and ability to recover from work pressures.

“Other research has suggested that unfinished work tasks and unfulfilled work goals can keep us thinking about work during leisure time. A simple recommendation when finishing work before a break is to write a brief plan about how and when you will complete any unfinished tasks or goals when you return to work – it seems simple, but there is evidence that this simple technique helps to ensure that unfinished task or goals do not play on our minds too much outside of work time.”

The City researchers are continuing their teacher well-being research around the February 2017 half-term break. If you are interested in participating, further information and a sign-up form can be found here: http://www.city.ac.uk/assessing-teachers-well-being

Alternatively, you can email the researchers directly at: teachers.wellbeing@city.ac.uk

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