Union leaders blame extra pressure on teachers for illness due to stress

Stress and depression accounted for almost a third of all long-term sickness absence among teachers in city schools in the last year.

New figures reveal that more than 7000 teaching days have been lost to stress-related conditions and other mental health and fatigue syndromes in the past year.

The number of teachers absent due to long-term sickness during the same period, 2011/12 – classified as eight weeks or more – was 148.

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Union leaders today spoke of receiving calls from teachers “on a daily basis” and laid the blame for the figures at the door of education bosses who “relentlessly increase pressure upon teachers whilst also removing resources due to budget cuts”.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said: “We receive calls every day from our members relating to stress. Some are not sleeping, whilse others are still working on classwork at 4am.

“For a long time now, stress has been the leading cause of work-related illness in the education sector.

“Teachers are facing an increase in workload and pressure while dealing with a decrease in resources, and results don’t just depend on how much effort a teacher puts in, but the efforts of pupils also.

“Some years everything can come together regarding effort and committed pupils and you can look like a great teacher, while in other years less committed pupils can make you look a failure.

“Nevertheless teachers are judged on this.”

The new statistics, released under Freedom of Information laws, show that the second most common reason for absence from city schools is categorised as “hospitalisation, surgery and convalescence”, with more than 3300 teaching days lost as a result.

Other common ailments forcing teachers to be signed off work include musculo- skeletal problems, neurological illnesses, back and neck problems and infections.

Ms Ballinger added: “The job has become more stressful since the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, so in future greater consultation is needed regarding new intitiatives rather than just imposing them on teachers.

“Doing away with using crude results as a measure of how good a teacher is would greatly help too.”

A spokesman for the city council said: “Teaching is a highly rewarding job, but we are acutely aware that it can also be challenging and stressful, so a number of measures are taken to ensure that staff receive the support they need.

“We regularly consult with teachers to discuss and resolve any concerns and also to provide a confidential counselling service for those who need extra support.”