UK ECEC peak bodies combine in project to explore ECEC burnout, mental health issues
A joint task force has been created to explore workload pressures that are “causing early years practitioners to become stressed and worried about their mental health” in the United Kingdom.
The findings from the work of the task force are likely to be of interest to those working in the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, with research from the Australian Education and Care Workforce Professional Body (ECW) showing that nearly half of those surveyed in relation to their future in the profession were either undecided about remaining in ECEC, or had commenced steps to leave the profession, with many citing mental health and wellbeing as triggers for their choices.
The taskforce has been developed, Day Nurseries reports, as a consequence of the results of the recent Pre-school Learning Alliance survey, Minds Matter, which found that many staff working in the UK ECEC sector were suffering from work-related stress and resulting mental health issues.
The Mind Matters survey found:
- 74 per cent of respondents had regularly felt stressed about work, or an issue relating to work in the past four weeks
- 61 per cent did not feel they had a good work/life balance
- 25 per cent had considered leaving ECEC due to stress and mental health difficulties.
These findings mirror the responses given to the ECW survey, where respondents made comments such as “emotionally and physically, I am broken” and “I work long hours, and put my health and my family second as the centre and the staff always come first”.
Day Nurseries reported Neil Leitch, CEO of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, as saying the role ECEC professionals had in shaping children’s early learning and development was vital, and that the passion and dedication of the workforce is “something to be both admired and commended”.
“That said, it’s clear from our research that the demands of working in the sector are taking their toll, and it is simply not right that day-to-day working life should be having such a detrimental impact on practitioners’ mental and physical health, relationships and, in some cases, their ability to do their jobs properly,” Mr Leitch said.
Similarly to the Australian ECEC context, the inspection framework and quality control measures in the UK ECEC sector are due for review, with Mr Leitch saying he hopes that a new UK education inspection framework will provide “an ideal opportunity for early years providers to have their say on this important issue”.
Australian ECEC professionals struggling with mental health and wellbeing are encouraged to seek support and guidance.
Employers may offer an Employee Assistance Program, with counselling and resources, or ECEC professionals may wish to explore our range of wellbeing articles.