Boston school among those pioneering new methods to support under-pressure teachers

Alan Castley
Alan Castley

A Boston academy is among schools in the county using new methods to help support teachers as a charity says 75 per cent of teachers have faced physical or mental issues.

As part of an investigation by the BBC, experts say thousands of teachers are leaving the profession because it is affecting their health and wellbeing.

But one school in Boston has, according to the BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire investigation, come up with an innovative way to ensure their teacher numbers don’t slip too much.

And Lincolnshire County Council says many of the county’s schools are trying new ways of improving teacher retention and supporting and counselling teachers where necessary.

Former teacher and education expert Laura McInerney reported in the programme, which went out on Monday night, that 36,000 working-age teachers stepped down from the profession last year, with fewer being trained as pupil figures look set to rise by 19% over the next decade.

Only 80% of people who qualify as teachers go into the profession and one in three teachers quits the classroom within the first five years.

Boston’s Giles Academy is one of the schools in the county looking at ways to improve things and stop the drain of teachers, the programme said.

It has recruited some teachers from overseas – and they have also allowed staff struggling to cope with the extra demands of the job to work flexibly.

One staff member to benefit from that is Alan Castley, who used to be assistant head at the academy and says he was working 60-70 hours a week.

He told the programme: “My main responsibility was teaching maths, but that really had to take a back seat as I was also in charge of the site which was very difficult.

“I felt I wasn’t doing any of my roles properly and my maths teaching was suffering. I was feeling it, I was getting chest pains and it was starting to wear me down and I think I would have gone off with a long-term illness. I don’t know how anyone could do 40 years.”

Alan made the decision to take semi-retirement and work part-time, so he is now working three to four days a week just teaching maths, which he says he loves, he said.

“I’m drawing my pension and I’m going to work until I’m 66, I might even work longer because I do love teaching.”

The Education Support Partnership, a counselling service set up to support teachers, recently carried out a survey of teachers and 75% of those that responded said that they had faced physical and mental health issues in the last two years because of their work.

Julian Stanley, Chief Executive Officer at the Education Support Partnership, said that the charity had seen an increase in the number of calls to its helpline: “In the last year I would say it’s been a 35% increase, we’re dealing with 9,000 calls a year which equates to 150 calls a week.”

Heather Sandy, Assistant Director of Children's Services for local education authority Lincolnshire Councit, said: "We recognise that whilst very rewarding, the role teachers have is a challenging one.

“The hard work of school staff across Lincolnshire is helping to give our children and young people the best start in life.

“Unfortunately, some staff do suffer from mental and physical health issues and we offer schools an employee support and counselling service for those who need help.

“Many Lincolnshire schools are using innovative approaches to improve teacher retention and we are actively supporting schools to work together, share best practice and support each other through these issues."

Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, outlined what his department is doing to address the problem: “We are taking a huge amount of action in terms of tackling workload. We’re tackling the marking issue, we’re tackling the data collection issue. We’re tackling the lesson preparation and resourcing issues that schools are facing.”

“Thirty-two thousand came into teaching last year and I’m very optimistic that we’ll see a similar figure, or higher, this year coming into teaching. We’re also seeing higher numbers returning to teaching. Last year, 14,000 people returned to teaching.”