Eighteen teachers off for more than a month with stress

Stress and mental health issues led to North Somerset teachers taking 4,358 off sick over the past f

Stress and mental health issues led to North Somerset teachers taking 4,358 off sick over the past four years. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stress and mental health issues led to teachers in North Somerset taking 4,358 days off over the past four years, according to figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats.

Eighteen teachers were off for more than a month due to stress and mental health issues in 2016/17 – which works out at around one in 45 teachers.

The National Education Union (NEU) is calling for improved funding, more realistic targets and a five-year freeze on curriculum reform.

Jon Reddiford, division secretary for North Somerset NEU, said: “On one hand we have a situation where schools are run on a shoe string, support staff are being cut to a minimum, so there are tasks that need to be done, but no-one to do them. So teachers are being asked to take on more than the key aspects of their jobs.

“On the other hand we have a target-driven culture. While teachers are taking on additional tasks, the pressure to meet Government set targets does not go away, but the capacity to meet them reduces.

“On top of that, the Government and local authority are pushing schools into academy status, which means headteachers are being diverted from their core job to spend huge proportions of their time worrying about school structure. This results in teachers being asked to do unreasonable tasks they don’t feel they can cope with and long-term stress absence results, in too many cases.”

The worrying statistics were revealed following a freedom of information request and the Liberal Democrats says it shows the ‘impossible pressures teachers are under’.

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Extra workloads due to underfunding, an obsession with exam results and restructuring of the education system have been blamed.

Mike Bell, leader of the Liberal Democrats on North Somerset Council, said: “These figures lay bare the impossible pressures our teachers are under.

“It is simply unacceptable those working tirelessly to do the best for local children are seeing their mental health affected as a result.

“This must be a wake-up call to the Conservatives in power in the Town Hall and in Westminster to do more to support our teachers.

“Stress and anxiety are fuelling the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, but the Government’s current approach is making matters worse.”