The Teachers' Health and Wellbeing Study Scotland
Dunlop, Claire A.
Macdonald, Ewan B
NHS Health Scotland
In Scotland, as in the rest of Europe and the UK, issues of health and well being have come to be of increasing concern in the contemporary workplace, and no less so in the teaching profession where levels of ill-health retirement and workrelated sickness absence have become perennial concerns (Wilson 2002; Brown and Macdonald, forthcoming; Travers and Cooper 1996). Indeed, it has been estimated that stress in physical and psychological terms may cost taxpayers in Scotland approximately £43 million per year and, in addition, that some £37 million a year is spent on supply teachers to cover for those who are absent. Furthermore, it has been proposed that anything between £750,000 – £1.5 million might be saved every year in Scotland through the introduction of comprehensive teacher support systems (Goss 2001). While it is a well-established fact that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs (Smith et al, 2000a, 2000b; Trunch, 1980; Tuetteman and Punch, 1990), very little primary data on teachers in Scotland actually exist. Rather, the evidence base in Scotland is dominated by reviews cataloguing the evidence and arguments concerning the nature and sources of teacher stress, for example, the Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) has published two of the most detailed reviews of the sources and prevalence of teachers’ stress (Johnstone, 1989; Wilson, 2002). In an effort to form a baseline picture of teachers’ health needs in Scotland, as well as a more strategic view of what could be done to address these growing problems, NHS Health Scotland and the charity Teacher Support Scotland (TSS) with support from the Esmee Fairburn Foundation commissioned research to explore the issue of teachers’ health and well being. The explicit aim of the endeavour was to address the ‘growing perception in Scotland that there is a need for consistent and systematic support for teachers on a national basis’ (NHS Health Scotland 2003), the concern being that teacher recruitment,. retention and morale will be adversely affected if such support is not forthcoming. There were three components to the research, the aims of which were: 1. to map the context and support which is currently offered to teachers in Scotland. 2. to ask teachers themselves about their health needs and the support they would like to be offered in the future. 3. to catalogue the interventions from around the world which might be effective in addressing teachers’ health and well being. Data were collected for each strand respectively through: 1. A survey of the HR Departments of all 32 Scottish Local Authorities to determine the nature and extent of support for health and well being issues among teachers. 2. A health and well being questionnaire survey of a sample of teachers drawn from the register of the General Teaching Council of Scotland and a focus group session with staff members in a SEN school. 3. A “rapid evidence assessment” using international social science and occupational health databases to search for relevant literature on health interventions which have been used to improve health and well being in the teaching profession across the world. This report summarises the results from all three strands of the research project.
NHS Health Scotland, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Teacher Support Scotland
© NHS Health Scotland 2004
Dunlop, C.A. and Macdonald, E.B. (2004) 'The Teachers' Health and Wellbeing Study Scotland' Edinburgh: NHS Health Scotland