Research into Google search data shows that teachers are experiencing high levels of stress which experts predict could lead to industry-wide burnout. Searches for ‘teacher stress’ reached their highest level in September last year, increasing by 70 percent since the second-highest month in May.
Data shows that ‘signs of burnout’ were at their highest in January 2022, as leadership teams are being warned to address burnout before an expected spike. ‘Signs of burnout’ is receiving the most searches from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, with ‘occupational burnout syndrome’ also increasing in monthly queries. Educational experts strongly recommend additional support be made available for current teachers. This follows the South Australian Government’s pledge to place a specialist autism teacher in every government primary school in the state by 2023. Joseph Raffell, Head of Education at specialist teaching recruitment firm, Engage Education, says there are a number of ways schools can tackle burnout and attract teachers into new roles supporting autistic children.
“It’s vital that schools tackle the teacher burnout crisis as soon as possible, to minimise further shortages. One of the key contributors to teacher burnout is the extreme workload and lack of support. In order to focus on the students, teaching assistants and other staff can be redeployed to take on extracurricular activities. This will free up time for teachers to concentrate on lesson planning, helping students and still having time to switch off outside of work.
“There’s plenty of expectations placed upon teachers, which only adds to the stress and eventual burnout. It can be hard to think creatively about lessons when teachers feel as though they have to constantly ‘think outside the box’. Providing resources such as high-quality lesson plans can alleviate some of this pressure and helps teachers to feel supported.”
Mr Raffel said with the South Australia Government’s plans to attract more specialist autism teachers, it is important to rectify issues currently faced by schools. “The teacher shortages as a result of burnout need to be addressed by focusing on making the job as rewarding as possible. Whilst financial incentives can attract more teachers, the fundamental issues must be fixed first.
“Providing a supportive environment that allows teachers to develop professionally and focus on their students is key. A strong induction, development, and mentoring program will both attract and retain teachers in schools.”
Mr Raffel suggests schools consider flexible working options such as part-time and reduced hours to entice more specialists into schools. “Listening to what teachers want and responding with significant changes will attract and retain a great deal more talent.”
Stephen Finch, a Primary Teacher for The Department of Education Tasmania commented on the burnout crisis.
“Teacher burnout is significant, especially in the first few years of teaching. Approximately three out of five new teachers leave due to excessive workload. Unfortunately, we are even seeing experienced teachers leave now too. The main reason is too many administrative-type tasks and not enough time to do planning and assessing. As well, there are no real recruitment strategies for teachers of special needs. This is an area of major teacher rollover. We are now starting to see some pay incentives offered which could help attract more teachers specialising in educating children with autism”.