Stress is less across the Channel

Harvey McGavin finds the French seem to cope better in the classroom.

Teachers in England are 20 times more likely to take days off work because of stress than their colleagues across the Channel.

A survey of 800 teachers in England and France found that 22 per cent of sick leave among English teachers was due to stress. But only 1 per cent of French teachers gave stress as a reason for absence.

More than half (55 per cent) of the English sample said they had recently considered leaving teaching, compared to 20 per cent of their French counterparts. Respondents cited low pay, illness, general disillusionment and a desire to "teach, not test" as factors which led them to consider leaving - but their age, fear of retraining, and potential loss of income made them stay.

"A lot of teachers think they don't have any alternative," said the report's author, Dr Cheryl Travers, of Loughborough Business School. "They don't realise the skills they have and there isn't enough support for them to make the transition to another job."

Overall, English teachers found job satisfaction in their relationships with colleagues but were unhappy with their hours of work, whereas French teachers enjoyed better job security but complained of a lack of promotion chances.

Teachers in both countries experienced similar sources of pressure, including problems with discipline, poor social image, lack of parental support, and low status accorded to the profession. French teachers were more worried by their ability to influence decision-making, and the behaviour and well-being of pupils. English teachers suffered the effects of tight budgets, lack of resources, and administrative work.

"Compared with other occupational groups, teachers reported far higher stress symptoms," Dr Travers said. "One of the pressures for French teachers is in worrying if they are up to the job, whereas UK teachers feel strongly that they are up to the job but want to be left to get on with it."

One English primary teacher summed up the apparent frustrations of her job. "Most people would agree that they want to do their job well," she said. "In the current climate it's virtually impossible to be a good teacher - chasing rainbows is always going to be stressful."

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