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Resolution on the mental health of teachers adopted by the Education International Congress

Louise Magnard
November 3, 2019

The 8th Education International (EI) World Congress meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, from 21st to 26th July 2019 adopted a resolution on the mental health of teacher and education support’s personnel.

The 8th Education International (EI) World Congress meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, from 21st to 26th July 2019 notes:

(1) Quality education is critical to the wellbeing of children and young people;

(2) Too many students are denied access to appropriate specialist support for their mental health and wellbeing due to a lack of investment in education;

(3) Whilst teachers and education support personnel play an important role in supporting students, they are not a substitute for appropriately qualified and specialist mental health professionals;

(4) That good school leadership, which respects the school personnel, has a major impact on the wellbeing of teachers and education support personnel;

(5) The mental health and wellbeing of teachers and education support personnel has been affected adversely as a result of job-intensification, a climate of high-stakes performativity in schools, and increasingly precarious terms of employment and working conditions;

(6) Teacher and education support personnel’s morale and job satisfaction are further impacted adversely by cuts to salaries, poor working conditions, excessive workload demands and other adverse management practices, which, in many countries, are also resulting in fewer people wanting to be teachers and education support personnel;

(7) There has been a profound and devastating impact on teacher and education support personnel’s mental health in many countries arising from lack of investment in education and as a consequence of policies of economic and financial austerity;

(8) Evidence confirms an increased incidence of depression, anxiety and teacher and education support personnel suicide exacerbated by poor/adverse management practices and the lack of support for teachers and education support personnel;

(9) The important endeavour by member organisations in leading campaigns and taking collective action to secure tangible improvements to working conditions and working practices in schools in order to address concerns regarding the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and education support personnel.

Congress further notes:

(10) The profound and devastating impact on teacher and education support personnel’s mental health in many countries where teachers and education support personnel are subjected to politicised targeting and victimisation by governments, security services and other authorities, including intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions, incarceration, torture, beatings and killings;

(11) The impact on teacher and education support personnel’s mental wellbeing of violence, intimidation and the militarisation of schools;

(12) Economic austerity policies and the privatisation and commercialisation of education have, in many countries, resulted in discrimination, scapegoating and exploitation of teachers and education support personnel;

(13) Many teachers, education support personnel and students have been displaced from their countries of origin due to armed conflict, violence, sexual exploitation and persecution are in greatest need of support for their mental and physical wellbeing.

Congress believes:

(14) Quality education, teachers and education support personnel are central pillars of a democratic society;

(15) School leaders should get appropriate training to implement practices that stimulate positive involvement and wellbeing of teachers and education support personnel and to implement a positive feedback culture in their schools. They should also be trained in the detection of psychosocial risks;

(16) There is a significant risk to achieving the global commitment education under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 arising from the failure to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of qualified teachers and education support personnel;

(17) Quality education for children and young people requires quality working conditions for teachers and education support personnel and investment in the team around the child;

(18) Lack of investment in teachers and education support personnel, together with adverse management practices in schools, are major causes of poor mental health issues amongst teachers, education support personnel and students;

(19) All teachers, education support personnel and students should be entitled to support for their mental health and wellbeing, and encouraged to access to such support without criticism, penalty or stigma.

(20) Congress resolves that the Executive Board will take action to:

(i) Continue to advance the ideals, aims and objectives of the Unite for Quality Education campaign, recognising the centrality of the health and wellbeing of teachers, education support personnel and students to achieving the goal of quality education for all;

(ii) Highlight and support the work of member organisations that are campaigning and taking collective action to challenge unacceptable working practices;

(iii) Continue to assist and highlight the efforts of member organisations that are taking steps to support refugee and displaced teachers, education support personnel and students;

(iv) Continue to promote the goal of schools as safe sanctuaries for all;

(v) Advocate with member organisations to secure an appropriate national and international index of teacher and education support personnel’s mental health and wellbeing;

(vi) Collate and disseminate to affiliates examples of effective practices to support teacher and education support personnel’s well-being in various country contexts;

(vii) Engage with member organisations to promote the aims of World Mental Health Day.

Focus on the mental health of teachers in the UK

Health questions are extremely important for education unions. At its last annual conference,NASUWT -The Teachers’ Union, a member of the RES, passed a motion on the mental health of teachers.

Each year, the NASUWT survey “The Big Question” highlights the point of view of teachers and establishment heads and the questions that influence their work, specifically on work/life balance topics and the mental and physical well-being of teachers.

Within the educator conference at the 8th congress of EI, NASUWT hosted a panel on mental health and well-being of educators with guests from the AFT.

Gareth Young presented the “The Big Question” data spanning from the first survey held in 2011.  He highlighted the impact that their jobs have on teachers and the excess work which leads to stress and a lack of control, a direct consequence of the recruitment crisis in British schools.

During this panel, education professionals from all over the world shared accounts of the strain that work was having on their mental health.

Russ Walters concluded the session by reminding the unions of the importance of acting and giving teachers the power to say “no”!

Amongst other aspects, the 2019 survey revealed that during the last 12 months, due to their work:

  • 77% of teachers suffered from anxiety;
  • 85% suffered from loss of sleep;
  • 3% self-harmed.

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