Stress and struggle within education is very common, and because of this, if you are struggling for whatever reason as a teacher, then there are plenty of places you can look to for support. Depending on your situation you might choose to go to different places, so here’s a round up of the most common ones with a few details that should help you pinpoint who you need to be asking.
The main unions are NASUWT, NUT and ATL, but there are others. If you’re not in a union and you are having problems at work, then join one right away. Your union should be your first point of call for any workplace dilemmas that you need extra support with.
Even if all that is required is to send you a quick email with advice in that, then that is better than not having their input at all. It’s amazing what the words ‘union advice’ do to add weight to your case.
Never ever go into a meeting regarding a workplace issue without union representation. Always contact the regional office and not your workplace representative to ensure you are getting impartial advice.
Teacher Support Network
This is an independent charity set up to help teachers who are struggling in any way, and they tend to fill in the gaps that the union can’t help you with. So, a combination of your union and TSN’s advice means that you are getting comprehensive support to help you in all areas.
Typical issues that the TSN help you with are anything that is practical or emotional, so for example this would include mental health and stress, financial difficulties resulting from workplace issues and the frustrations of the current jobs market. They offer advice packs, personal counselling and in some cases financial support.
These are the online forums provided by the Times Educational Supplement where you can get anonymous real life support from your peers. To add to that, you can also access support from experts such as Tom Bennett and Theo Griff, on occasion.
There are specific forums dedicated to wellbeing and workplace dilemmas, so even just scouring through what has already been posted on those you are highly likely to find someone in the same situation as you. Make sure whatever you post is under an anonymous name, and is properly worded and sufficiently vague to avoid you getting recognised.
Your local education authority are most important during your NQT year, as it is them who ultimately decide the result of your NQT assessments. If your problem is related to that, then this is where you go. Most commonly, you might have not been given enough notice that you are to fail an NQT assessment so that you have time to improve, in which case it’s the LEA who will override your school’s decision and demand that you pass.
If you are still doing your PGCE then it’s an absolute necessity that you contact your lecturers about any problems. During your first few years of teaching, particularly your NQT year, it’s not an outrageous idea to still contact them for advice if you are struggling. Once you’ve graduated, they might help you, or they might not, but it’s definitely worth a try.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service provide free advice and information regarding all aspects of employment law and workplace disputes. They are most beneficial to contact if your problem is regarding a contract dispute, bullying or harassment of any kind.
Bear in mind that they are a general advice service that cover all career sectors, so their advice will not be tailored to education in the same way that advice form a teaching union will be. As such, you may receive conflicting information. Because bullying is so widespread in education you may be advised to file a bullying lawsuit where a teaching union would not advise that.
You may find support from your colleagues, dependant on your particular problem. If the issue is a whole school one, then definitely, but even in some individual cases you may find another member of staff at your establishment is being treated in the same way.
Be very careful when looking for this kind of support though, as information you pass to a colleague may be passed in secret to managers and used to undermine you. However, managers tend to play on the isolating effect this fear has, so if you can subtly enlist a colleagues support, without leaving yourself wide open to manipulation, then go for it.
It’s most likely that your issue is with SMT so you may be surprised to find this on here, but, again depending on your situation, receiving support from your line managers shouldn’t be ruled out. The most obvious way in which you can use this is to request to go on courses and training that will help with your particular problem, but you also may find them supportive in instances of long term illness or issues with individual students.
Don’t forget, there’s always me. I’m happy to answer personal emails and do so regularly as a result of running this blog. Just click the button in the right sidebar to send me a message. There’s also tons of advice in the posts I’ve written on here, available for free.
I provide off the record advice and insight that most ‘official’ advisory channels will leave out or refuse to acknowledge. Because I’m anonymous, I can say what I like without fear of legal or job contract related repercussions, and I’m quite happy for you to stay anonymous too so you can tell it like it really is.