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Teachers ‘under increasing work-related stress’

26 April, 2011

Teachers under increasing work-related stress

“A stressed teacher makes for a stressed-out child”

Government initiatives are putting teachers under increasing amounts of stress, union members have claimed, driving away the number of people wanting to become a teacher.

One delegate Sue McMahon told the audience at the National Union of Teachers conference in Harrogate that she had seen a “meteoric” rise in work-related stress with some having even contemplated suicide due to the pressures.

Ms McMahon, from Calderdale, said: “As a divisional secretary I have seen a meteoric rise in work-related stress and on more than one occasion have had to support a member who has attempted suicide.

“This meteoric rise in work-related stress is due to the demands being placed on our members to hit Government targets.”

She said a “target tsunami” escalating from the Government’s aims is “sweeping away those [teachers] that you are struggling to support”.

John Illingworth from Nottingham told delegates the number of stress-related suicides among teachers is “low but significant”.

“But stress-related illness is widespread, affecting thousands of teachers each year. It is more likely to end a teacher’s career than any other cause,” he said.

He called for more action to stop work-related stress in schools.

Laura Fisher from Wakefield told delegates how two weeks into her first job as a teacher a colleague looked at her and said: “‘Go home and drink a bottle of wine and you’ll be fine. I said ‘I don’t drink’, and he said ‘give it six months’.

“That was six years ago. I still don’t drink, but I do like chocolate.

“A stressed teacher makes for a stressed-out child,” she added.

The union passed two resolutions, on tackling teacher stress and teacher workload.

The motions called for the union to support victims of work stress and for the Health and Safety Executive to intervene in schools that do not comply and introduce stress risk assessments.