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Work-related health problems blamed as sick days almost double in five years

17:15 15 April 2014

Newham Teachers Association members: (left to right) Divisional Secretary Peter Smith, 64, Assistant secretary Iain Hale, 54 and president Peg Probett, 61.

Newham Teachers Association members: (left to right) Divisional Secretary Peter Smith, 64, Assistant secretary Iain Hale, 54 and president Peg Probett, 61.

Archant

Absenteeism rates among the borough’s teachers as a result of work-related stress have soared, latest figures reveal.

The statistics, based on every school in the borough, were obtained by the Recorder following a Freedom of Information request.

It shows the total number of sick days taken due to stress, depression, anxiety, neurasthenia mental health and fatigue has jumped from 955 in 2008 to 1702 in 2013, almost double to what they were five years ago.

Teachers’ representative, Peg Probett, president of Newham’s Teacher’s Association (NTA) says the dramatic increases in stress related absences comes “as no surprise.”

The 61-year-old who taught at Essex Primary school in Manor Park for 20 years says it was anxiety and pressure of work which forced her to take early retirement at the age of 57.

“In any conversations I’ve had with teachers, their biggest concern has always been stress and workload,” she said.

“I retired because of stress and high blood pressure from working very long hours and I knew if I didn’t go then I was going to be really ill.

“Since I’ve stopped teaching I’ve had no trouble with my health,” she added.

Peg said the stress comes from the government’s constant changes to the curriculum and the threat of Ofsted which puts pressure on the head and cascades down to teachers.

Peter Smith, NTA Divisional Secretary said he has no doubt those figures would significantly decline if Education Secretary, Michael Gove, were to “abolish Ofsted for the next five years”.

“The introduction of performance related pay and meeting targets tell us nothing about the education of students,” he added

NTA assistant secretary Iain Hale said: “It is no surprise to me but nonetheless shocking that there is an almost doubling of the numbers of teachers off work due to stress related illnesses.

“In the current environment of increasingly unrealistic targets imposed by the government it is obvious why so many are falling ill and leaving.”

A spokesman from the Department of Education said councils and academy trusts had systems in place to identify and tackle stress.

He added: “We trust the professionalism of our headteachers to monitor their staff’s workload and address any issues.”

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