Strain is showing with 24-hr stress helpline

21st April 1995 at 01:00
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers is to open a 24-hour, seven-day-a- week stress helpline from June 1 in the light of evidence from a survey of members which showed that nearly 60 per cent believed that work-related stress affected their lives.

Forty-four per cent of teachers worked more than 50 hours a week, 23 per cent over 60 and almost 70 per cent said their workload had increased, with administration, assessment and new courses causing the extra work. Three-quarters said they had noticed an increase in their own and colleagues' absences through stress-related causes; 56 per cent said factors such as inspections, curriculum demands and budget cuts had increased their workload and 77 per cent described their job as a stressful occupation.

ATL president Roger Green, announcing the helpline initiative in his conference address in Harrogate last week, said the association's headquarters was 40 times more likely to deal with a teacher suffering from stress or ill health than with an industrial dispute.

Only the other day, he said, the round-the-clock ATL legal helpline, set up last June, took its thousandth call. This was causing concern as most of the calls were about marital worries.

"The stresses and strains of teaching are not just confined to the classroom or the school building... They are pulling at the very heart of family life."

This was one of three survey findings presented to the conference to back up debates. On Wednesday the subject was class size: on Thursday, inspections. The 25 branch secretaries in a geographical spread of education authorities unanimously agreed that with financial reductions and impending cuts class sizes would increase. Many said they already had. Nineteen said there would be job losses: 300 in one authority to single figures in others.

Although more than half of teachers questioned about inspections by the Office for Standards in Education found inspectors helpful and polite, 37 per cent said they were "arrogant, rude or bullying".

All branch officials said teachers had complained of increased workload and stress because of inspections and more than half said they noticed increased absence after an inspection.

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