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Ayrshire stress line gets teachers hot under collar

A teacher representative on East Ayrshire's education committee has dismissed the council's new approach to stress management for teachers and pupils as "papering over the cracks". Iain Harvey said that the Educational Institute of Scotland had spent Pounds 30,000 on a helpline for its members and it would be a poor show if the council came up with anything short of a staff welfare officer for teachers.

The committee backed a report which highlighted possible sources of stress for pupils and teachers and listed measures to reduce it. These included 5-14 testing in classroom rather than examination conditions, increased emphasis on internal assessment in SCE examination, and courses for staff and pupils in personal effectiveness and time management.

New procedures have also been drawn up relating to pupil discipline and violence. The emphasis throughout is on eliminating stressful situations by straight talking and co-operation.

Tom Williams, principal education psychologist, said that the murder of a Kilmarnock Academy pupil had focused attention on the issue of stress management. He hoped that problems could be dealt with locally in the first instance.

Mr Harvey said later: "There should be someone to respond to the concerns, stress and worries that teachers feel. People phone you up and say, 'I haven't slept for the past two nights. I'm worried about x, y and z.' Levels of stress are sometimes so high that it doesn't take much to tip them over the edge. "

Someone should be appointed who was aware of the special problems of teachers, Mr Harvey said, but he acknowledged that any post was likely to cover the welfare of a range of employees.

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