There’s an abundance of literature regarding the importance of positive teacher wellbeing and the impact negative wellbeing can have on teachers themselves, student progression and colleagues’ workloads. However, less explicit reference is made to just how much money neglecting wellbeing as a whole-school priority has on our schools. This may be because putting monetary value on teacher ill-health can seem insensitive, although this is not what is intended by drawing attention to the amount of money spent as a consequence of poor wellbeing - it’s instead meant to act as a wake up call for schools and leadership teams, so they can see the expense of not focusing on wellbeing in a bid to encourage them to invest in teacher wellbeing and other resources that will work at benefiting the whole school.
It’s no secret that teaching is stressful, in fact, it was ranked one of the three professions with the highest reports of stress and depression - with this being common knowledge, it’s a wonder more isn’t done to address these issues through investing in better wellbeing measures.
The consequences of poor wellbeing include absenteeism, presenteeism and in worst cases, quitting. These, of course, all have serious implications on students and fellow teachers, but the cost of these is also huge. Sickness, in general, is a huge economical drain with it costing UK businesses £14 billion a year and it’s suggested that the impact of presenteeism can cost up to seven times more than absenteeism.
To put this into perspective for education, there were 2.2 million school days lost to sickness in the 2016-2017 academic year. The percentage of the causes of absence is unknown, but regardless, the cost that schools are spending on supply teachers as a result of absences is substantial, with the average UK school spending around £58,000 on supply teachers.
Of course, the worst case consequence of poor teacher wellbeing is resigning which, unfortunately, isn’t too unfamiliar with 36,000 working-age teachers having left the profession during the 2016-2017 academic year, as well as, 57% of teachers having considered leaving the profession due to health pressures.
Teachers are a resource that we can ill afford to lose - not only does teachers quitting their job mean we have less experienced teachers to educate our students, it means an abundance of expenses on recruitment, training and advertising. When hiring new teachers schools spend around £75 million to advertise vacancies and it costs a further £23,000 to train a single teacher.
The price that is attributed to wellbeing is huge, considering that there are many steps that can be taken in between first symptoms of poor wellbeing and resigning and that focusing on wellbeing needn’t be expensive. Simple changes can have a huge impact when it comes to the happiness and health of your staff such as changes in attitudes, different prioritisation of your SIP and better channels through which teachers can share their opinion. When we look at the simple steps that can be taken to improve wellbeing, it makes the excessive amount of money schools are spending to counteract the effects of poor wellbeing unjust. In order to help drive home the importance of investing in wellbeing, think about not only the effects of positive wellbeing, such as better teacher health and student attainment, but how it would enhance school culture and the opportunity to invest money into resources that would work at whole-school improvements.