Heads 'more stressed' by governors than pupils

5th May 2000 at 01:00
DEALING with governors is more stressful than coping with pupils, say primary heads.

But difficult staff, badly- behaved pupils and demanding governors are not the only things which take their toll on headteachers' health.

Tight budgets, constant change, government initiative overload, and inspections are causing major headaches, according to a survey carried out by Leicestershire primary heads.

A quarter of the county's heads have retired due to ill-health in the past five years.

The survey, instigated by the county's headteachers' association, now underpins a stress management strategy produced by local head Steve Palmer. Leicestershire County Council paid for his secondment, and is distributing copies of the strategy to all its schools. A headteacher support service should start next April.

Mr Palmer, head of Manorfield primary school, Stoney Stanton, said: "This is a national problem and not one that relates just to Leicestershire. All the tasks we are asked to do are possible, there's just too many of them."

He is particularlyconcerned about the loss of professional confidence highlighted in the survey. More than 90 per cent of respondents felt stressed by continuing accusations of poor standards in schools. One just wrote "help" in the comments box.

Of the 191 heads who responded, 99 per cent said they felt stressed by constant requests for change, the demands put on their time by the education authority and the Department for Education and Employment, and the requirements of DFEE initiatives.

Office for Standards in Education inspections were said to put 97 per cent of heads under stress, and 95 per cent felt under pressure when juggling tight budgets.

Leicestershire is one of the lowest-funded authorities in England.

Governor expectations of heads put pressure on 93 per cent of them, while only 82 per cent were unduly upset by unacceptable pupil behaviour. Three-quarters of the heads said stress was affecting the quality of their private life, and interfering with their health or sleep patterns.

See next week's governors' pages

Leader, 18

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