UCL News


Anxiety of headteachers across England “substantially increased” during the pandemic

13 February 2024

The anxiety of headteachers across England increased “substantially” throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, finds the largest study of its type to date, led by a UCL researcher.

Anxiety of headteachers across England “substantially increased” during the pandemic

The research shows that headteachers and senior leaders bore the burden of stress throughout the pandemic and that they were ‘generally quite good at protecting more junior colleagues from workplace stresses’.   

The study, which was published in the journal Educational Review, collected 26,394 observations from 1,530 teachers using the daily survey app ‘Teacher Tapp’ at 75 touchpoints from October 2019 to July 2022.   

Lead author Professor John Jerrim (IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education & Society) said: “Our research demonstrates the considerable anxiety teachers experienced throughout the coronavirus pandemic, particularly that faced by senior leaders and headteachers.”  

“We also found female teachers and those with children of their own to have experienced higher levels of work-related anxiety during this period, peaking at the end of 2020 and start of 2021 when it was not clear whether schools would re-open or not.” 

During the winter of 2020/21, the average anxiety score entered by participants reached 6.7 on a scale of 0-10 when asked ‘how anxious do you feel about work today?’ on Teacher Tapp. At this point more than 67% of participants had a score of 7 or more (considered a ‘high’ level of anxiety).  

Professor Jerrim highlighted the impact of complex infection control policies: “The findings show the impact frequently shifting government policy, from remote teaching to teacher assessed exam grades, had on the wellbeing of educators from all types of schools in England.”  

“This study, the largest of its kind, should demonstrate the need for stronger, more decisive leadership from government, should a comparable crisis occur again.”  

Co-author of the study and co-founder of Teacher Tapp Professor Rebecca Allen concurred, stating “To retain the best school leaders, the government must ensure they are not put under such extremely difficult circumstances in future, and that they are given the opportunity to properly recharge after the upheaval of the last few years.  

Professor Allen also emphasised schools’ preparedness to utilise digital technology. She said: “Moving forward, a strong case can be made for digital technology to become a routine part of instructional practise.”  



Media contact 

Sophie Hunter

E: sophie.hunter[at]ucl.ac.uk