Guest blog post

At Edapt, from time to time we are contacted by PhD researchers and Masters students who are completing research and conducting questionnaires about the teaching profession. Where possible, we like to support in providing a platform so that school staff can see if they would like to contribute to new studies. Here is a great example below!

Hannah Smee is an ex-secondary teacher, who is now a Lecturer in Education and is completing her PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research focuses on women’s health in the workplace. To be interviewed for her menopause in teaching research project, please email her at: [email protected].

What is the menopause? 

The menopause is a natural transition which every natal female will undergo at some point in their lives, usually between the ages of 45-55. Due to the changes in hormones during the menopause, women can experience a range of symptoms, including sleep disturbances, depression, and hot flashes. These symptoms can significantly impact a woman’s personal and professional life.

Studies already suggest how menopause symptoms may be more problematic for female teachers due to the uniqueness of their work environment. Accommodations which are notably beneficial during the menopause, such as flexible working, reduced workload, and access to toilets/fresh water may be more difficult for a teacher to access due to the constraints of their working day.

Survey of menopausal women secondary school teachers

In 2023, a survey was created as part of a larger PhD project at Manchester Metropolitan University to try to further understand the experiences of menopausal women secondary school teachers. Findings from the survey show the significant impact the menopause is having on women teachers and highlighted the main challenges to accessing menopausal support in secondary schools.

The survey showed women teachers are experiencing a range of menopausal symptoms with physical and mental exhaustion, sleep problems, depressive symptoms, muscular and joint discomfort, and vasomotor symptoms being most reported. When women needed help to manage these symptoms, only 1 in 10 participants felt supported at work and that their line manager understood how to help.

Menopause teachers also reported how work demands were problematic during the menopause, 91% of women reported needing to put more effort in to maintain work performance and 86% found their workload difficult to manage due to the menopause. Stress at work was cited by 80% of participants as a factor in making the menopause more difficult to manage. Considering the current retention crisis in teaching and the role of stress in teachers exiting the workforce, it’s imperative we put support in place to retain menopausal teachers.

Despite the increased guidance around menopause support, the survey showed how adjustments which are identified as beneficial are not easily accessed in schools. 8 in 10 menopausal women teachers disagreed they were able to take breaks when needed, work flexibly, and reduce their workload. 7 in 10 disagreed they had access to ‘cooling down’ methods whilst teaching or in meetings.

The survey suggests both menopausal symptoms and the work environment are problematic for women teachers during the menopause. Some recommendations from the results of the survey are:

  •  Line managers and school leaders may benefit from training in how to effectively support menopausal teachers
  •  Teachers need to be able to access helpful adjustments during the menopause, such as reduction in workload, methods of cooling down and working flexibly. Menopausal staff and their line managers may find a menopause policy which identifies how they can effectively and practically implement reasonable adjustments helpful (only a third of participants reported their school having a menopause policy in place)
  • A third of teachers reported they were ‘unsure’ if their line manager or HR was supportive, this suggests some teachers are not disclosing their menopause at work. It may be helpful for schools to introduce initiatives which raise an awareness around the menopause and reduce stigma, such as menopause cafes or menopause champions
  • No detriment policies should be in place to support menopausal women, ensuring they receive equal opportunities for progression and no detriment for time off. 7 in 10 women reported attending work despite feeling they needed to take time off and over half of women said they felt at a disadvantage in their career
  •  Stress and workload need to be managed during this time; reducing teacher workload would benefit menopausal staff

 How can you take part in the study?

The next part of the Manchester Metropolitan University study will further explore teachers work-related menopause experiences and the barriers to menopausal support in teaching. If you would be willing to support with the study and take part in an interview, please email principal investigator Hannah Smee: [email protected] 

References for academic research on the menopause

Reference for menopause transition and symptoms:
  • Santoro, N., Roeca, C., Peters, B.A. and Neal-Perry, G. (2021) The menopause transition: signs, symptoms, and management options. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 106(1), pp.1-15.
References for impact of menopause on professional and personal life:
  • Atkinson, C., Beck, V., Brewis, J., Davies, A. and Duberley, J. (2021a) Menopause and the workplace: New directions in HRM research and HR practice. Human Resource Management Journal, 31(1), pp.49-64.

  • Verdonk, P., Bendien, E. and Appelman, Y. (2022) Menopause and work: A narrative literature review about menopause, work and health. Work, 72(2), pp.483-496.
Reference for studies already suggesting the teaching work environment is problematic:
  • Steffan, B. and Potočnik, K., (2023) Teaching through the menopause: A flexible work paradox. In Teachers and Teaching Post-COVID (pp. 64-86). Routledge.

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