State of education: workload and wellbeing

The majority of teachers are struggling with workload.


In the latest survey of over 8,000 National Education Union members, conducted ahead of Annual Conference in Bournemouth, we asked teachers and support staff about their personal experience of workload and the forces affecting their wellbeing. 

  • Two in five (41%) teachers describe their workload as “unmanageable,” and for a further 37% “only just manageable.” A mere 1% of respondents told us their workload was manageable “all the time.”
  • Many of the major causes of stress for teachers are Government-driven, such as inspection (64%), insufficient staff levels (58%) and lack of resources (45%). The overriding cause is poor work-life balance brought on by high workload (68%).
  • 92% of support staff told us that pay is a cause of stress, with 63% saying it was a major cause – and the most leading cause. Insufficient staff levels and the resulting rise in workload register with 92%, of whom 61% describe it as a major cause of stress. 

The State of Education survey gauges the views of working teacher, support staff and school leader NEU members in England and Wales. We are releasing the findings over the course of Annual Conference. 


Members have told us the scale of the workload pressures facing them on a daily basis.


Describe your current workload


One in ten teachers (10%) told us that high workload is a perpetual problem. Just 20% consider it manageable most of the time, with a tiny number (1%) saying they have no workload issues. 

Our latest survey findings show little improvement compared to when the same question was put in 2023. “Manageable most of the time” has increased slightly, from 17% to 20%, while those who say it is “unmanageable all of the time” has reduced from 13% to 10%. This may reflect some progress in tackling the most extreme workload at school level, but it remains the case that for the majority (78%) workload levels are still significant in 2024. 

The Department for Education’s most recently published Working Lives of Teachers and School Leader survey (February 2023) shows that full time teachers are working on average 52.4 hours per week, up from 51.9 in the previous year. School leaders are working on average 58.2 hours per week, up from 57.5 in 2022. Both are above the UK’s Working Time Regulations of 48 hours and extend well beyond classroom hours. 

Causes of Stress

Respondents to the latest NEU State of Education survey told us that the causes of stress in their daily lives are manifold.

In a multiple-choice question, the top causes among teachers are – in descending order – poor work-life balance (95%), inspection (92%), insufficient staff levels (90%) and appraisal/internal accountability (90%). Most answers generated strong responses (80% or above) with many feeling most acutely about the stress caused by Ofsted (64%), or inadequate staffing levels (58%) and resources (45%) brought about by real-terms funding cuts. All three of those issues are within the Government’s control.

What causes you stress?

Among support staff in England, pay levels and insufficient staff levels rank highest at 92%. Pay levels are a “major cause” of stress for 63% of respondents. Poor work-life balance is a less extreme issue for support staff compared to teachers, though still significant with one in three highlighting it as a major cause of stress.

What causes you stress? - support

Action Plan

Finally, we asked members to identify from a multiple-choice list the actions that could be taken to improve staff wellbeing in the coming year.


Actions to improve wellbeing

Tackling workload – much of which does not involve teaching a class – was the clear change that would make a big positive impact among teachers, with 83% saying so and a further 13% thinking it would make a small improvement. There is also a clear demand for more support staff in classes, with three quarters (74%) of those surveyed saying it would make a big impact.

Members explained some of the workload and wellbeing challenges they face in their own words. They reported a profession burdened with an unmanageable workload, without time to plan or mark, under-staffed and unsupported on pupil needs and weighed down by permanent dread of inspection. A few of the thousands of member stories are reproduced below: 

“I feel on the verge of going off sick with stress. I feel that my work life balance is terrible, and I spend all my family time worrying about when I am going to fit my work in.” 

“There is the culture and expectation that teachers will work beyond expectation and teachers feel guilty for not working every hour god sends as it is likely to have an impact on others.” 

“I am leaving the profession for my wellbeing. I do not have a voice. I am not respected or valued… It has been very destructive to my mental health. I try very hard to create a happy working environment but it’s impossible.” 

“The job has changed beyond recognition since I trained in 1990. The job is now almost impossible to achieve what is expected. Support staff are undervalued and underpaid.” 

“The ridiculous burden of work on teachers has a real effect on student results and wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of staff. Teachers simply don’t have enough hours in the day to perform all the many tasks being asked of them and it impacts on the quality of teaching.” 

“Management expects us to put on additional interventions for children to help improve performance figures for assessments. But no additional staff are available for the interventions and there is no extra planning time to prepare for the sessions.” 

“I find the ever-increasing recording of behaviour unmanageable in my day. I am expected to record incidents; record toilet breaks; record medical and time card use; record truancy; record lateness and minutes late; record good behaviour and attitude. This takes a lot of time and interrupts my classroom practice.”

“Staff have so little time to deal with their workload, that they cannot support each other, so wellbeing has become a big issue, too.” 

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Daniel Kebede, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“It is simply appalling that so many teachers have a workload that is constantly unmanageable. Not surprising, however, when research shows year on year that this is a problem with deep roots. 

“The Autumn Statement and Spring Budget were both golden opportunities for the Chancellor to initiate a step-change in the Government’s approach to education. One that would generate new funding so that schools could make ends meet, could afford staff and resources. Instead, it did almost nothing. 

“Clearly, the roots of stress and poor work-life balance for teachers and support staff are embedded in fourteen years of mismanagement of education by a succession of education secretaries. For as long as anyone can remember, they have said warm words about reducing workload – yet the dial has barely shifted. And their own survey shows that working hours are still well in excess of legal limits. 

“The TUC’s recent Work Your Proper Hours Day showed that teachers now top the polls for unpaid overtime hours for the first time. This is not something we as a society want to be smashing records over. 

“Last year, the education secretary committed to tackling workload as part of the pay and funding agreement – but progress is too slow. Many of the causes of high workload and stress are within the control of Government. Gillian Keegan must face up to this hard truth.” 

Editor’s Note

We conducted the survey between 11-20 February 2024. This report covers the findings from 8,017 responses from teachers, leaders and support staff in schools in England and Wales. We also received responses from NEU members in Northern Ireland, in the post-16 sector, in early years and supply; these are not included in this analysis but will feed into further work during the year.

We split the responses into two broad groups: school teachers and school support staff. We split these two groups into English state schools, Welsh state schools and independent schools in England and Wales. We did this so we could weight responses against the different demographic data available from their respective workforce censuses.

Where we have reported results for school teachers in England and Wales or support staff in England and Wales, we have combined the responses for English state schools, Welsh state schools and independent schools in England and Wales and weighted them in proportion to the size of the workforce.

Back to top