Government accountability measures harming pupils’ mental health, teachers warn

An overwhelming majority of teachers say the government’s accountability measures are “harming” pupils’ mental health, a poll has found.

Eighty five per cent of secondary school teachers believe school performance targets are having a negative impact on the “self-esteem, confidence and mental health” of their students.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) survey, of more than 3,700 secondary school teachers in England, found that almost all (92 per cent) said these measures were reducing the quality and time for teacher-pupil interaction “because of the way these performance indicators and metrics drive behaviour”.

The results of the NUT poll – released on the second day of the union’s annual conference in Brighton – found that more than three quarters (78 per cent) of teachers believed that child and adolescent mental health issues were having a negative impact on the educational achievement of the students that they taught.

But, 71 per cent said that they didn’t think the services available to their school matched the level of need for counselling or mental health support for students.

The survey found that almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of secondary staff said they were frustrated that a lack of services was having a negative impact on the achievement of students with special educational needs (SEN).

Meanwhile, 72 per cent of secondary teachers described their morale as low or very low. The survey also found 74 per cent of teachers said their workload has actually increased since the Government launched the results of the Workload Challenge in February last year.

Secondary teachers also feel strongly that the educational experience and curriculum opportunities for their students are narrowing.

When asked about the Government’s Ebac measure, 77 per cent of teachers did not think it was flexible enough to meet the range of learner needs in their secondary school. Meanwhile, 60 per cent held the view that it had already decreased learning opportunities in their school.

And only a third of teachers believe the new accountability measure Progress 8 – which will be introduced later this year – will allow schools to address achievement levels across a broader range of attainment.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “The survey results confirm that secondary education is experiencing a multi-faceted crisis. Teacher workload is rising, while morale is falling. Cuts are biting, while the mental health of students is under increasing strain.”

She added: “Changes to curriculum and assessment have brought no relief; they entail extra work for teachers and – for many students – a programme of learning which is indifferent to their needs. The evidence is stark, yet Government ministers remain detached from the realities that teachers face every day.

“Amid denial and neglect from on high, the union will continue to highlight these worsening problems, and to hold government to account for its failure to provide the support and the resources that our school system needs.”

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