‘Teachers’ stress levels harming students’

Drop Folder News. Kevin Allen.'Graham School exterior..'0939102g.
Drop Folder News. Kevin Allen.'Graham School exterior..'0939102g.

UNDER pressure teachers in the Scarborough area were absent from classrooms for more than 3,800 days in three years due to stress.

New figures, obtained by the Evening News following a Freedom of Information request, also show a worrying disparity in absence levels between different schools.

Anne Swift, headteacher at Gladstone Road Infant School and press officer and executive member of the National Union of Teachers, said the figures only represented the “tip of the iceberg” and that high stress levels among teachers was adversely affecting children’s education.

“There have been a number of surveys that have shown teaching is in the top five most stressful professions, and these figures bear that out,” she said.

“Teachers are feeling that they can’t cope and they are being put under such pressure that they are unable to do their jobs properly. ”

At Filey School, where 54 teachers are employed, 341 working days were lost to stress in the 2010/11 financial year. In the past two years, 645 days have been lost at the school through the condition.

At Graham School, which employs almost twice as many teachers as Filey School, just 81 days of absence due to stress were taken in 2010/11.

At Pindar School, where 57 teachers are employed, the situation got worse last year.

The school’s stressed-out teachers took 198 days in the last financial year, compared to 135 the previous year and 138 in 2008/09.

At Scalby School, no figures were released for 2010/11, indicating few or no teachers had time off with stress over the year.

In 2009/10 58 days off were lost to stress and the previous year 60 days were lost. On average, the school employed 59 teachers.

Mrs Swift said that past and present governments chopping and changing policy as well as students’ behaviour, a focus on testing and league tables and “punitive” Ofsted inspections were among the reasons for the high stress levels.

“The government adopt ideological positions and is not prepared to listen to professionals,” she added. “Some children bring outside pressures into school and are not ready to learn.

“It is such a shame because teaching can be one of the greatest jobs in the world. We want to do our best to give students a start in life but the conditions are getting more and more difficult.”

A wide disparity was also shown in the region’s primary schools. At Filey C.E Infant and Nursery School, where 10 teachers work, 139 days were lost to stress in 2010/11.

At Wheatcroft CP School, where 15 teachers work, just 11 days were lost to stress in the same period.

Pam Milner, a languages teacher for 30 years and national executive member for the North and West Yorkshire for teachers’ union NASUWT, added: “The situation in classrooms is as bad as it’s ever been.

“It’s a growing problem caused by workload, constant monitoring, poor pupil behaviour and a lack of support from senior management and some headteachers.

“The mantra among some headteachers seems to be ‘Ofsted could come at any time and we need to be ready’, and it’s not fair. The pressure is on and people are having to jump through higher and smaller hoops year after year.”