Work-related stress is harming school staff –

our five steps to tackle it Comment by ROB MCGREAL, stress policy lead at Health and Safety Executive

Across Great Britain, work-related stress accounts for more than half (57%) of all working days lost due to ill health, or around 15.4 million days. Schools are not exempt; the education sector has a higher than average incidence rate for stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work. Employers can’t ignore the problem; they have legal duties both to

assess the risk of work-related stress to their employees and to put in place measures to prevent or manage it. What’s more, if a member of staff takes time off sick, someone else

has to pick up their work or an expensive supply teacher will be required. Pupils lose the continuity of having their regular teacher, creating another problem for school leaders to deal with.

Here are HSE’s five steps to tackle this

• Start the conversation Talking about the problem is an important first step helping to lift the stigma, so people find the right support to feel psychologically well. School leaders should have conversations about work-related stress or

mental health issues with staff to identify and address the causes. Through Go Home Healthy, we’ve launched a Talking Toolkit

specifically aimed at helping school leaders begin these conversations. It’s a practical guide with templates for six conversations and resources for preventing work-related stress.

• Find the right resources There is a wealth of resources out there. In fact, just last year Heads Together and Mind launched #MentalHealthAtWork, an online gateway of resources from organisations like ACAS, Time to Change, CIPD, TUC and HSE. This hub is user-friendly and allows you to break down the type of resource by sector and job role. You can access it at

• Know the causes Without knowing what causes work-related stress in your school, it’s impossible to tackle it. We have developed our Management Standards approach as one way of getting to the root causes. The best way to find out what’s causing the problems is by asking

those being affected – speaking to staff is essential, gather information through conversations, checking pre-existing data e.g. fit notes, staff feedback and exit interviews.

• Bust the myths One of the main causes of stress is workload demands making it important to understand what work your school needs to deliver and what it doesn’t. One thing we’ve found working with schools is that lots of paperwork isn’t necessarily required for inspection anymore but is gathered “just in case”. Both Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE) have produced

myth-busting resources to help schools identify what work is unnecessary. Ofsted’s inspection myths guidance and DfE’s Workload Reduction Toolkit are two great places to start.

• More than just wellbeing or coping Workplaces are increasingly focusing on ‘wellbeing strategies’ – things like yoga, meditation, resilience and mindfulness training. These are often put in place to help people cope.

While these can be beneficial to the individual, they don’t remove the

root causes, nor do they protect others. Removing the causes is most effective in supporting staff and ultimately helping the school fulfil its legal duty in protecting workers. You can join the conversation at #WorkRight and by following

@Go_Home_Healthy on Twitter and on Facebook:

Editor’s Choice 2020

How and why we need to support the thousands of non- specialist teachers teaching physics in our classrooms today

Comment by CHARLES TRACY, Head of Education, Institute of Physics

Imagine training as a paediatrician and then spending your day doing orthopaedic surgery. Or training as a pharmacist and then being asked to ignore that expertise and design electronic circuits. This is the predicament we put

thousands of teachers in when we ask them to teach nuclear physics or forces and motion when their background and heart is in biology or chemistry.

A recent Education Policy Institute Report puts the proportion of

physics teachers with a relevant degree at 50%, with that figure being even lower in the most economically deprived areas – just 17% in the poorest areas outside London (EPI, August 2018). This is concerning for two fundamental reasons:

• Firstly, and most importantly, we can’t expect to inspire future generations to discover a love for physics whilst being taught by those teaching a subject that isn’t their passion

• Secondly, teachers are more likely to leave the profession if they’re assigned to classes they don’t feel qualified to teach. A recent study in America (Metropolitan Life) discovered they can be up to 1.9 times more likely to leave teaching if put in this situation So it remains a national priority to recruit enough teachers with

suitable backgrounds and expertise to teach physics. However, it’s not an easy fix. Currently, the share of graduates in

teaching six months after graduating is just 2.7% for physics graduates compared to 12.4% for maths, 12.4% for English and 8.4% for chemistry and biology (Institute for Fiscal Studies), so the critical shortage is likely to feature in schools for years to come. In the meantime, we owe it to the thousands of teachers who find

themselves teaching under-19 physics without it being their primary area of expertise, a commitment to support them in every way possible and we believe a five-fold approach is the best way of doing that: • When a teacher agrees or chooses to teach another science subject, we need to provide extended subject knowledge enhancement courses either before or after Initial Teacher Education so that they feel properly prepared

• We need to create simple access to teacher endorsed resources to provide quality inspiration and back up

• Teachers also need to be given easy ways of getting support from other physics teachers. Our online community does just that - giving teachers one click access to a community in which they can ask questions, seek inspiration and discuss challenges and opportunities And we need to make accessing CPD support simple. Logging onto provides free online access to a wealth of CPD resources as well as a constantly updated glossary of physics terms, while details a rich programme of no-cost CPD workshops, conferences and events

• Ultimately, we need, where possible, to give teachers more options about which sciences they teach because a degree in one of the sciences does not imply the necessary desire or skills to teach all three Through real need we are asking the almost impossible of

thousands of teachers each year – to inspire students in a subject that isn’t their subject of choice. If those teachers are prepared to rise to that challenge, everyone invested in seeing physics as a subject thrive needs to step up too, to help make that challenge less daunting and ultimately more rewarding. 11

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