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Eighty-four percent of teachers are ‘helping with pupil mental health issues’ as schools struggle to recruit

Pupils’ mental health has been cited as a growing issue by overwhelming majority of teachers – with 84% now giving support, research by Teach First has shown.

Polling commissioned by the charity found 84% of teachers have spent more time helping pupils with mental health issues over the past academic year, with 58% putting more hours into social care issues and 52% giving increased attention to family or financial hardship.

Teach First says this is contributing to the challenges schools face when recruiting and retaining teachers, with the same research finding that 86% of teachers say an increased workload is the main contributor to staff shortages, while almost three-quarters (72%) cite pay as a factor behind the struggle to find and keep teachers.

The stark findings, drawn from a Teacher Tapp survey of more than 2,600 teachers across England, were commissioned for the Teach First report Ending Educational Inequality: Closing the gap and opening doors, which is published today (Tuesday, 14 May) and sets out key policy recommendations ahead of the forthcoming General Election.

The research has been unveiled ahead of the final set of recommendations from the Department for Education’s Workload Reduction Taskforce, which is aiming to reduce teachers’ and school leaders’ working week by five hours within three years.

Teach First CEO Russell Hobby said:

“Our polling clearly shows that issues around pupils’ mental health, social care and their family or financial situation are taking up an increasing amount of teachers’ time. This is contributing to an already-heavy workload and, therefore we believe, the recruitment and retention challenges impacting for schools.

“By relieving the wider pressures on schools with additional support on non-educational issues, particularly those serving the most deprived communities, teachers won’t need to pick up so much work outside the classroom.

“We urge the Workload Reduction Taskforce to reflect this in its forthcoming proposals.

“Whoever forms the next government must prioritise developing an ambitious teacher recruitment and retention strategy fit for the future, to modernise teaching and ensure a consistent and sustainable pipeline of high-quality trainee teachers.

“Without this, we’ll let down a generation of young people, with those from the poorest backgrounds hit hardest.”

The new research also found a lack of flexible working opportunities is a major concern for younger teachers.

In the poll, half of teachers in their twenties identified it as a factor contributing to the recruitment and retention crisis, compared to around a third (32%) of teachers aged over 50.

To help modernise teaching, Teach First’s report has called for more flexible working practices in schools, in addition to measures which will cut the cost of training to teach such as higher starting salaries for trainee teachers and the expansion of Teacher Degree Apprenticeships.

Moreover, the report wants to see a “road map” created to significantly increase spending in the schools serving the most deprived communities from 4.5% to 6.5% of total government spend by 2030.

This translates into a 44% increase in spending on schools which would mean an additional £22 billion a year, targeted at schools with the highest levels of Pupil Premium.

Simon Hart, Principal of Teach First partner school Springwest Academy in Feltham, Hounslow, West London, said:

“With schools now acting as the fourth emergency service, our teachers often take on extra responsibilities, working with our pastoral team to support their pupils with initial mental health concerns.

“We work incredibly hard to attract and retain our brilliant teachers, ensuring they feel valued, rewarded and regularly refreshed with a competitive salary and flexible working hours including finishing early on Fridays and exploring a nine-day fortnight for staff.

“Like many school leaders serving communities facing deprivation, I would welcome more guidance and support from the Government. Both in the recruitment and retention strategy, and by ensuring that teachers can focus on teaching.

“Schools are stretched too thin. We need to make sure our teachers can deliver the very best education to their pupils.”

MEDIA CONTACTS: for more information, interviews and images, please contact Jacob Archbold, Media Officer, Teach First on 020 3862 8085 or or Ollie Wilson, Head of Media and Campaigns,


  • Full survey results from the Teacher Tapp poll commissioned by Teach First, the full report, interviews and further case studies from teachers within the Teach First community are all available upon request.
  • About Teach First

    Teach First is an education charity that is committed to giving children facing the biggest barriers the chance to fulfil their potential. It backs the schools with the toughest challenges. The charity finds and trains teachers, develops their leadership teams and plugs them into networks of diverse expertise and opportunities to create real change.

    Since launching in 2003, Teach First has placed more than 17,000 teachers and leaders, has more than 100 headteachers in its training programme alumni and has supported over two million pupils.

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