‘Epidemic of stress’ blamed for 3,750 teachers on longterm sick leave

The Guardian reports that teaching unions are warning of an “epidemic of stress” as research revealed that 3,750 teachers were signed off on longterm sick leave last year because of pressure of work, anxiety and mental illness.

Figures obtained through a mass freedom of information request show a 5% rise on the year before, revealing that one in 83 teachers spent more than a month off work in 2016-17.

Altogether 1.3 million days have been taken off by teachers for stress and mental health reasons in the last four years, including around 312,000 in 2016-17, the figures compiled by the Liberal Democrats show.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned of an “epidemic of stress”. 

“You’ve got half a million teachers in England and Wales. Everyone is someone’s mother or father, son or daughter, aunt or friend, and they see the stress,” she said. “So you can’t talk up the profession when people see the reality.”

One assistant head at a large inner-city primary school said she felt forced to leave due to the relentless workload. Speaking anonymously, she pointed to the need to plan in immense detail for a range of 30 different abilities in a class, which could be overwhelming. The workload was in addition to meetings, marking and handling of questions from colleagues that all fell outside school hours.

“It’s a relentless hamster wheel with minute-by-minute stress. You wake up in the night with your mind filled with 30 children who mean so much to you,” she said. “You want the best for them, you want them to do well and be safe and happy. And the list scrolls in your head of all the things that have to be done before they come to you at 8.50am in the morning.”

Julian Stanley, chief executive of the education support partnership, said the figures reflected his organisation’s recent research that found three-quarters of school and college staff had experienced “psychological, physical or behavioural symptoms because of work”. He said that was significantly higher than for the overall population and pointed to budget cuts, fewer staff, bigger class sizes and recruitment difficulties as causes.

Read the full article ‘Epidemic of stress’ blamed for 3,750 teachers on longterm sick leave

Have you been on longterm sick leave? Did the school help on your return or was it business as usual? Please tell us your houghts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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