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Understanding Teacher Burnout

October 2022

Burnout, an occupational phenomenon, is probably a term that you’ve come across before. You may know someone who has suffered from burnout or even experienced it yourself. Mental Health UK describes it as “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion” and if left unchecked, it can have serious consequences for your health, wellbeing and efficacy.

An image visualising teacher burnout.

The chronic stress people who are suffering from burnout experience can be of a physical, emotional and/or interpersonal nature; with burnout commonly defined by three dimensions, namely exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. Bearing all of this in mind, it is no surprise then to discover that job performance also suffers if a person is experiencing burnout in the workplace.

The annual report published by the Health and Safety Executive in 2021, states that there were “822,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or  long-standing) in 2020/21.”* This sizeable figure, representing 2,480 cases per 100,000 workers, may not be surprising given the pandemic brought with it stresses that had never been experienced before. In educational settings all around the globe, teachers were not just dealing with their own stress but also having to manage the stress of others too e.g. pupils, colleagues and parents. Additional pressures were experienced by those colleagues with children; some found themselves in the unenviable position of home-schooling their own children, while teaching remotely at the same time. All of this within a confined and shared living space, thereby blurring the line between home and work and making it more difficult to ‘turn-off’ from the job at the end of a working day.  A number of studies have already been conducted with regard to the effect the pandemic has had on teachers, students and schools. You can read more about this topic in a recent post from The Conversation “Teacher burnout hits record high – 5 essential reads” and this post from colleagues at the University of York.

In addition, although Covid-19 brought understandable additional stresses, the number of people reporting that they were suffering from work-related stress has been steadily increasing year on year since 2013/14. With the HSE identifying that certain groups within the workforce are more at risk of experiencing work-related stress, such as ‘teachers and other educational professionals’, it is imperative that we unpick what is causing this increased stress for teachers and how we can counter it.

*Data obtained via self-reports from the Labour Force Survey (read more about the statistics used by the HSE here).

Teacher burnout: spotting the signs and reducing the risk.

There are several sites out there that help you to spot the signs of burnout e.g. The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them?, provides a comprehensive list of what to look for. As burnout has serious consequences with regard to personal wellbeing and job performance, reducing the risk of burnout needs to be a key priority for both individuals and organisations. The NHS has produced a helpful guide ‘Top Tips to deal with stress and burnout, which you may find useful.

Working with a mentor, coach or trusted colleague can help you to reframe and challenge your thought processes. This could be by helping you to reduce negative self-talk and ‘overthinking’, which can lead to additional stress and anxiety. Every year since 2017, the charity Education Support has produced the Teacher Wellbeing Index, providing us with a better understanding of teacher wellbeing and mental health. A report illustrating the trends across the last 5 years can be accessed here.

Teacher Self-efficacy

Teachers with a stronger sense of teacher self-efficacy have been found to deal with stressful working environments more successfully. From studies conducted, teacher self-efficacy was seen to protect against burnout;  “buffer” against stress and produce higher levels of job satisfaction.

As self-efficacy beliefs are not fixed and can be strengthened, TSP provides a range of scenario based learning courses via T-Insight that can be used to support teachers and school leaders to build teacher self-efficacy, helping to overcome the effects of stress which may lead to burnout.

The courses we offer  develop key teaching attributes such as empathy, organisation, resilience and adaptability; consolidate teacher knowledge and promote reflective practice. Courses are stand alone and can be easily integrated into a school or trust’s professional development programmes. Please contact us to find out more about our cost-effective suite of learning and development tools.


1.Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., and Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.

2. Work-Related Stress, Depression or Anxiety statistics in Great Britain, 2021. (2021). Health and Safety Executive.

3. Klassen, R. M., and Chiu, M. M. (2010). Effects on teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction: Teacher gender, years of experience, and job stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 741–756.

4. Skaalvik, E. M., and Skaalvik, S. (2011). Teacher job satisfaction and motivation to leave the teaching profession: Relations with school context, feeling of belonging, and emotional exhaustion. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(6), 1029–1038

5. Dicke, T., Parker, P. D., Holzberger, D., Kunina-Habenicht, O., Kunter, M., and Leutner, D. (2015). Beginning teachers’ efficacy and emotional exhaustion: Latent changes, reciprocity, and the influence of professional knowledge. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 62–72

6. Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., and Euwema, M. C. (2005). Job resources buffer the impact of job demands on burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(2), 170–180.

7. Collie, R. J. , Shapka, J. D. and Perry, N. E. (2012). School Climate and Social–Emotional Learning: Predicting teacher stress, job satisfaction, and teaching efficacy. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 1189–1204.