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Random checks on health and safety

ONE IN five local education authorities can expect a random Health and Safety Executive visit between April 2007 and March 2008 to check on whether rules to protect staff are being followed.

Councils have also been warned by the executive that they must take stress in schools seriously.

Paul McCormack, policy adviser on stress in education, said: "We will ask local authorities, 'What mechanisms do you have in place for your schools to risk-assess stress?' Then we would start to build up a picture of how they manage the issue."

Some 20 per cent of authorities may be visited, and it is understood some may be surprise visits. Mr McCormack, speaking at a conference in Stirling, said all schools should consider a stress risk assessment. The HSE says work-related stress accounts for a third of sickness absence in Britain, 46 per cent in education.

The HSE is putting a particular focus on stress in education, and it was a recurring theme at the Stirling conference. One delegate told Mr McCormack that teachers, particularly the young and newly qualified, were loath to raise the issue for fear of seeming unable to cope with the job.

Another said the problem had often been ignored in schools which had a strong academic performance.

Mr McCormack said the HSE would not assume that only failing schools had a high level of work-related stress.

Also speaking at the conference, Mike Finlayson, chief executive of Teacher Support Scotland, urged teachers to speak out and take responsibility for their own well-being.

HSE guidance on work-related stress at www.hse.gov.ukstress

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