Work-related stress sends 40% of teachers to the doctor, Manchester conference hears

By Nicholas Watmough

Teachers taking time off sick due to work-related stress was being debated at a conference held in Manchester yesterday.

The annual Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) conference debated a motion on the effects of heavy workloads, in the light of a recent poll.

The poll, conducted last month by the ATL, found that a quarter of those questioned said their current job had led to them taking sick leave from work, while a massive 40% had visited the doctor.

One Manchester primary school teacher said: “I would like to go to the GP but I am worried about taking time off due to the lack of empathy from senior staff on my return.”

The conference heard how 60% of the school staff questioned said they had thought about changing jobs, while a similar proportion (58%) admitted they had considered leaving the profession entirely.

The motion warns that workload is causing a rise in stress-related illnesses among school staff, and calls on ATL’s executive committee to investigate the extent to which workloads are increasing and why.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “The demands and pressures on those working in schools and colleges is escalating,”

“It is not surprising that so many teachers and lecturers are considering leaving the profession and it is particularly concerning that so many newly qualified teachers are unhappy; this does not bode well for the profession,”

“They are having to cope with endless Government initiatives, Ofsted inspections, pressure from parents, schools and colleges to get pupils through tests. The 35-hour week simply does not exist for teachers.”

ATL’s poll reveals that nearly three quarters (73%) of those surveyed said their job is having a negative effect on their health and well-being, while 64% said it is damaging their professional abilities and 62% said it is affecting their relationships with family and friends.

Asked specifically what it was in their job that was causing problems, the most common answer was workload, chosen by 84%, followed by long hours (69%), pressure of inspections (47%) and meeting targets (43%).

Seventy-nine percent said their workload has increased in the last two years, with half of those surveyed saying they work 50 hours or more a week.

“The Government doesn’t seem to care about teachers’ workload or their mental health and is showing a callous disregard for teachers’ well-being in many of its policies,” Bousted added.

ATL’s poll questioned 1,292 school staff from across the UK last month.

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