The Darkest Term Revisited: Teacher Stress and Depression Part 3

December 16, 2015

The most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which teachers shared their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of those people to see how they were getting on, although I never got round to publishing their responses. I’ve also contacted them again this week. This post contains one of the accounts from the original post and any updates.

Original Account: December 2013

This involves colleagues and not me.

Within my department one member has relinquished their TLR after just 4 months due to stress, another member of staff has relinquished their pastoral role after nearly suffering a complete breakdown and our department has experienced record sickness this year.

These incidents involving stress have historic origins. There has been a relentless request to achieve an outstanding Ofsted. Over the past 2 years, in the build up to Ofsted, a number of senior members of staff were ‘eased out’ whilst a team of AST were brought in. This was done in a number of ways and not all were pleasant. In our department it was decided by SLT that we needed a new HoD despite years of continued improvement and leading the college in results. Three new members of staff were hired and within weeks were engaged in weekly meeting with SLT to feedback on the department and HoD. The HoD was placed on competency after a few weeks, and remained in this category for a further month until they were able to prove that the claims against them were spurious at best.

Shortly after this, an ‘Oftsed consultant’ was brought in and the entire school was rated a 4. They pointed to data and claimed that our department was a 3 and could only ever be a 3. My HoD was not permitted to see the data they were using. The consultant was brought in to review the department and rated the HoD a 3, no advice on how to improve was given. When Ofsted eventually arrived later in the year they selected our department as the best performing in the school and the reason why the school scored a 2 overall (our dept was a 1 according to data). By this time my HOD had agreed to leave. All new members of staff joining the department this year had been told in advance that we were a falling faculty (even after Ofsted had named us in their report as the best in the school and the reason for its success).

More than one member of the AST team left with no jobs lined up because of the stress of working in a college with very few systems and a culture of fear. This year the same culture of fear exists but this time the focus is on another department. The same consultant has been brought in to ‘help’ that department. Within the last two weeks the newly appointed HoD was found collapsed in their office on the day the ‘consultant’ was due in. Everyone in that department is well aware of what fate awaits the HoD, the previous HoD was eased out last year.

I would say the biggest cause of stress is pressure to chase results and a complete lack of systems from SLT. There is now the expectation that we should offer twilight intervention and eventually weekend intervention.

Update: December 2014

Of the people in the original post, one is no longer here.The other is, and is happier. Since then another staff member left last Christmas having only joined in the summer and one appointed this summer handed her notice in a month after starting and is retiring completely.

Make of that what you will.

Update: December 2015

None of the staff previously recruited remain.

Last year the replacement for the teacher who retired also left in the summer. The old new head of dept quit to regain a work life balance. Four new joined this summer. One off at crimbo. One threatening to go at Easter. Other than that, brilliant.

If anyone reading this is experiencing stress and depression themselves, you should be aware of the Teacher Support Network which runs a hotline and offers practical advice. If it is your working conditions that are making you ill, or if you want help with ensuring that you are supported at work having being diagnosed with stress or depression, I would recommend contacting your union.


  1. 2012/13 was when I first started reading this blog. I was in a rather desperate situation along with a group of ( previously rated good) wonderful staff who ALL left the school in 2013.
    ” This often happens when a new head takes over.” said so many people including previously supportive governors, parents, colleagues from other schools and ‘new’ staff, as if a whole staff leaving the school was somehow normal.
    No, this is what happens when a narcissistic @rse takes over.

  2. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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