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Pressure of work that travels home

Stressed-out teachers are more anxious about not having enough time to do their job properly than they are about low pay and class size, according to a survey published this week. And they worry about whether their own children are receiving a decent education.

The survey - What Really Stresses Teachers? - was written and researched by Trevor Jellis, former chief county educational psychologist for Hereford and Worcester, who interviewed 600 teachers (both male and female, of varying ages) between 1992 and 1995.

Mr Jellis, now director of human resources at Worcestershire-based management consultants Bentley Goddard, says his study breaks new ground by asking teachers about their private lives as well as work, and by allowing them to set their own agenda rather than fill in a questionnaire.

"I felt that previous research hadn't revealed the true story because questionnaires tend to put ideas into people's heads," he said.

"My doubts were confirmed because the usual things such as pay and class size didn't come at the top of the stress list. Teachers were far more concerned about the cluttered curriculum, unnecessarily detailed recording and monitoring, lack of quality teaching time and continual criticism from parents."

Groups of between five and 10 teachers were asked to talk between themselves about the things they found most stressful in and out of school, then discuss these with Mr Jellis. The top stress generators at work were lack of time, resources and parental support, plus the demands of the national curriculum. Problems with their own children was teachers' most pressing source of concern at home.

Mr Jellis explained: "It should not be forgotten that teachers are parents and consumers of the education system. They see all of its shortcomings and ills from the inside. There is often a tremendous conflict of loyalties and much heart-searching. They worry whether the present system is doing the right thing for their children."

Other areas of anxiety included elderly parents, lack of time with the family and the amount of work that had to be taken home.

The report recommends that national curriculum and other time-consuming requirements for record-keeping should be cut to a minimum. Local education authorities should be properly funded or abolished, the report argues, because they cannot adequately support their schools in the present financial climate.

Mr Jellis also points to the demoralising effect of poor teachers on colleagues and recommends in the report that a system for identifying and getting rid of poor teachers should be a priority. "Bad teachers can have a terrible effect on other members of staff and drag everything down," he said.

What Really Stresses Teachers? is available at Pounds 4.99 plus Pounds 1.50 p and p from Bentley Goddard Ltd, Global House, Berry Hill, Droitwich, Worcestershire WR9 9AB. Tel: 01905 797877.

TEACHER STRESS: THE TOP TEN CAUSES

Work

* Lack of time to do the job

* Lack of parental support

* Lack of resources

* National curriculumirrelevant paperwork

* Rate of change

* Lack of LEA support

* Poor status of profession

* Staff relationships

* Government interference

* Pressure of meetings

Home

* Worries about own children

* Worries about elderly parents

* Lack of time with the family

* Untidiness of others

* Family illnesses

* Housework

* Guilt over not meeting all family's demands

* In-laws

* Having to take work home

* Lack of private space

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