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Concerned for their well-being

New telephone and online support services for Scottish teachers were launched this week. Neil Munro reports

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New telephone and online support services for Scottish teachers were launched this week. Neil Munro reports

Scottish teachers are twice as concerned about their health and well- being as those in England, if calls to a national helpline are any guide.

This was revealed as Teacher Support Scotland finally launched new telephone and online support services for teachers this week. It follows what were said to be successful trials in Fife and Renfrewshire.

Of the enquiries from teachers in those authorities, 18 per cent were concerned with health and well-being (including mental and physical health), compared with 9 per cent of calls to the equivalent helpline in England.

The big issue, however, was working conditions which comprised 32 per cent of the calls in the two authorities. Personal matters, such as family concerns, accounted for 24 per cent, and career factors 16 per cent.

The new services are free and confidential. The 247 support line will be staffed around the clock by qualified coaches and counsellors. Teachers will also be able to access self-help information online, ask questions of the experts and sign up for one-to-one email coaching.

The services are expected to swell the cost of running Teacher Support Scotland to Pounds 25,000 a year in the first year. The bill will be picked up by the UK Teacher Support Network, which provides similar services to teachers in England and Wales.

Ivor Sutherland, the former registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland who chairs TSS, commented: "I'm sure these new services will make an invaluable contribution to the well-being of Scottish teachers - and thereby the education of Scottish children."

The stresses and strains of teaching in Scotland were highlighted once again earlier this month when figures showed that 76,653 days were lost through teachers taking time off because of stress and depression.

The figures, based on returns from 22 of the 32 education authorities, acquired through Freedom of Information requests, revealed that Scottish teachers take more than three times the national average in sick leave as a result of stress and depression: 2.08 days per teacher per year against the UK average for all employees of 0.6 working days per worker per year.

In Moray, Perth and Kinross and Shetland, the rate was even higher, with over three teaching days lost a year. Surprisingly, only Glasgow teachers did not significantly exceed the national average.

TSS believes it has a role to play in reversing this trend, despite the existence of occupational health services in local councils. A study by researchers at Glasgow University found that only 10 per cent of teachers who retired early due to ill-health had used their occupational health service before doing so, compared with 90 per cent of healthcare workers.


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