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Department for Extra Stress

The TES's coverage of stress in the Department for Education and Skills was extremely disappointing ("Department for Escaping Stress", TES, July 29).

Schools minister Jacqui Smith's answer to a parliamentary question on stress distorts reality. I can assure your readers that all Public and Commercial Services Union representatives have dealt with work-related stress cases at the DfES.

The situation is so bad that PCS produced a leaflet on work-related stress in the department. How then was Jacqui Smith able to claim that "the Department has no cases of work-related stress, no days lost to work-related stress, and no compensation paid for work-related stress?

The answer is simple; the department's sickness leave form does not allow individuals to identify their absence as related to work-related stress.

The DfES has 4,000 staff and it is unlikely that no cases of work-related stress exist in an organisation of this size. Indeed, the department's savage programme of job cuts has led to members facing increased and often excessive work levels.

Teachers are not the only victims of Sir Humphrey and his ministers'

fixation with initiatives. Every initiative that impacts on teachers also impacts on DfES staff. The department has already lost 750 staff and will shrink to 3,300 but it is assumed it can still lead education through a constant stream of initiatives. The DfES simply does not have the staff to do this, and the resulting pressure means, it is not a nice, stress-free place to work.

Dave Cliff

PCS senior national officer

Public Commercial Services Union

160 Falcon Road, London SW11

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