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Governing boards fear for the mental health of school leaders and staff

| 2 minute read
Screenshot 2022 03 29 at 16.21.45

A new survey of more than 4,000 school governors and academy trustees in England has found the majority are concerned about the mental health of school leaders and staff.

More than half (57%) said they're concerned about the mental health of their headteacher or CEO, and seven in ten (71%) said they're concerned about the mental health of school staff, including support staff.

On the issue of workload, a worrying 70% of governors and trustees responding to the survey said that they’re concerned about the workload of their headteacher or CEO, and 75% reported being concerned about the workload of all school staff.

Many governors and trustees also said they're tracking workload and wellbeing, and the findings revealed that such monitoring has increased in the pandemic period. Eight in 10 (81%) of those surveyed said that their board is tracking the workload and related mental health of the headteacher or CEO, while 86% said their board is tracking the workload and related mental health of all school staff. More than half (58%) of respondents reported that their board has increased its tracking of these issues for headteachers and CEOs since pre-pandemic days, and a similar proportion (60%) has increased such tracking of staff welfare.

While boards are clearly worried about the workload and wellbeing of the most senior leaders in their schools, only 12% of those surveyed do not expect their headteacher or CEO to still be in post in two years’ time. And only one-quarter (26%) said their board has a succession plan in place for these roles - suggesting that this topic is not a regular feature in board discussions currently.

“Governors and trustees have had to walk a fine line between fulfilling their role of holding leaders to account and making sure that they themselves don’t add to the high levels of stress and workload,” said GovernorHub founder Neil Collins. “Add to that the challenges of staff shortages and learning gaps due to the pandemic, and you can see why our governance volunteers have had to handle their role extra sensitively to support leaders facing so many disruptions beyond their control.”

 

Some respondents also said that workload and stress for governing boards is an issue, with one commenting “Governance has become more challenging than ever - workload and accountability have increased and boards generally need far more support and training. It may be too much to ask of volunteers; although it is still extremely rewarding.”

And still, despite the challenges, governors and trustees reported feeling positive about the role and the part they play, with an overwhelming majority (89%) saying they would recommend being a governor to other people.