Teachers face stress nightmare

EMOTIONALLY drained teachers took a staggering 1,717 days off in the space of just a year because they were too stressed to face work, The Evening Star can reveal.

EMOTIONALLY drained teachers took a staggering 1,717 days off in the space of just a year because they were too stressed to face work, The Evening Star can reveal.

Between September 2005 and July 2006 a total of 103 teachers in the county took 11,163 hours off, equating to 1,717 working days, because of stress, anxiety or depression related illness.

Teaching unions are blaming long hours, badly behaved pupils, and bulging class sizes for the situation.

The startling figures, released by Suffolk County Council under the Freedom of Information Act, also show that:

Six teachers in Suffolk quit in 2005/06 because of stress anxiety or depression

One teacher was so ill they were off work for an entire year

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The number of “lost hours” could be even higher because many staff absences are not categorised

Chris Lines of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said the statistics show more needs to be done to improve pupil discipline and provide support for stressed teachers.

He said: “It is an increasing problem and it does relate to pupil indiscipline and sheer workload.

“It is not just the really bad stuff, low level indiscipline such as noisy pupils can get people down in the end.

“The problems are serious and need to be dealt with.”

Martin Goold, secretary of Suffolk National Union of Teachers (NUT), said he feels the figures represent the tip of the iceberg.

He said: “Research shows that one in three teachers will experience mental health problems at some point in their career and most of that is to do with work-related stress.

“The job of being a teacher has become virtually impossible. There are too many demands on teachers and society expects teachers to do too much.

“We are very concerned about the wellbeing of teachers and are urging Suffolk County Council to be more proactive in seeking to reduce workloads.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: "We take issues such as stress and anxiety very seriously. We have systems to ensure teachers have the support they need and to ensure classes are covered."

Are you a teacher who has taken time off because of stress? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

STRESS and anxiety are now the norm for teachers because of constant government initiatives and heavy workloads, an Ipswich teacher has told The Evening Star.

The woman, who does not wish to be named, said four of her close teacher friends are currently on anti-depressants and two of them have contemplated suicide.

She said: “I have friends who have suffered burn out and they and they generally feel a sense that they cannot cope anymore.

“It turns into depression.

“I have two friends who have not been able to get out of bed and not wanted to do anything.

“Teachers are so keen to do right by their pupils that they don't realise it is happening until it gets to that point.

“One of the problems is that you don't want to let the children down.

“I don't take days off even when I'm sick - you just carry on until you can't physically get up.”

Factfile - stressed out?:

At this month's NUT conference it emerged that teachers are turning to drink and drugs to combat stress.

A survey of 140 teachers in Nottingham found that a third have experienced mental health problems.

The NUT fears teachers are being driven harder, with more targets but a lack of understanding of staff welfare.

The estimated cost of lost hours in Suffolk comes to around £170,000 - the cost of supply teachers at around £100 a day.