How Results-Driven School Culture Affects Teachers’ Mental Health

By Beth Leipholtz 01/24/19

Researchers talked to teachers on long-term sick leave as a result of struggling with mental health for a new study.

a stressed teacher dealing with mental health struggles

More and more UK teachers are beginning to struggle with their mental health as a result of changing expectations in the profession. 

This information comes from a new study, Forbes reports. Researchers have determined that the results-driven culture in schools, as well as a heavy workload, changing policies and lack of support from higher-ups, is leading teachers to be more prone to stress, anxiety and depression and is also causing a decrease in their self-esteem.

The authors of the study have referred to the results-driven culture as “managerialist.” The authors explained that it has led to teachers not being able to encourage “active learning,” leading them to feel as if they are failing their students and themselves.  

“The result is teachers feeling they are being driven out of the classroom, and in some cases attempting suicide, due to the pressure of work,” Forbes states. 

In their research, study authors talked to teachers on long-term sick leave as a result of struggling with mental health. They also spoke to leaders in schools who had dealt with mental health struggles among staff members. 

According to Forbes, many of those interviewed stated that the focus on results and targets has changed the position of teachers and has altered their ability to form relationships with students. 

Many also noted that increasing amounts of paperwork have added to their workloads and that they felt they were always under pressure to reach unrealistic expectations while also not being allowed to participate in the decision-making process about expectations. 

One teacher, according to Forbes, stated that a new leader at the school had “immediately set about changing everything, didn’t take advice from anybody.”

Another teacher stated that teachers have lost the ability to respond to students’ needs, saying “there seems to be a loss of spontaneity that teachers used to have” and adding that “it’s all confirming to syllabus and rigor of that syllabus rather than responding to the children.”

According to Gerry Leavey, the director of the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Ulster University and principal investigator on the study, a decrease in self-esteem and teaching effectiveness was commonly brought up in interviews.  

“This tension is often internalized and impacts on teachers’ identity,” he said. “It often pits taking care of themselves and the non-academic needs of pupils against management duties and targets. Too often, this leads to stress and mental health problems.” 

Lead author Dr. Barbara Skinner told Forbes that when it comes to policy changes, the mental health of teachers must be considered. 

“Educational reforms, and the rigidly prescribed organizational and management structures that accompany them should be weighed against their impacts on professional identity and personal well-being,” she said.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.