Headteachers tell of frustration from playing 'part-time detective' during Covid-19 pandemic

Headteachers lately have had plenty to say online. Browse through their social media posts and forum chats, and you'll find the same words cropping up all the time - "exhausted", "frustrated", "stressed".

Coronavirus isn't just taking up headteachers' time - it's leaving them emotionally and mentally drained.

The day job of strategic planning and school improvement is largely taking a back seat.

Instead, heads are devoting hours to being "part-time detectives", tracking and tracing students and staff who may have come into contact with the virus.

One secondary school in Derbyshire has seen more than a third of its 850 students self-isolate this term.

The pandemic is also playing havoc with their budgets. Keeping schools COVID-secure and covering for staff who are off sick or self-isolating is proving a costly business.

One primary headteacher in Mansfield in Nottinghamshire has already spent £1,000 on hand sanitiser this term.

Many heads have said the extra spending is eating into their coffers and are worried it will leave them in the red in the next financial year, and having to make painful cutbacks in the future. 

All this, it would appear, is taking a dreadful toll on our school leaders. A survey out this week from the teacher counselling service Education Support found 89% of heads are feeling stressed or very stressed.

Worryingly, 59% said they'd thought about leaving the profession because of worries over what it's doing to their health.

Being a headteacher can often be a lonely and thankless job. Now, our school leaders are having to perform a role well out of their comfort zone - and it's unrelenting.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are enormously grateful to teachers and other school staff for the resilience and commitment they have shown in supporting children during this challenging time.

"We have taken consistent action to address teacher workload and wellbeing and invested millions in mental health charities to support teachers.

"This includes a new £8 million training programme run by experts to tackle the impact of coronavirus on pupils, parents and staff."