Sweden: a workload that's proving hard to bear

10th June 2005 at 01:00
Anneli Nuanes is shattered. She has been at Askeby primary, in Rinkeby, Sweden, since 7.20am. It is now 2pm. She has finished teaching, but is preparing to take her pupils on a picnic with their parents.

Teachers in Sweden usually work until at least 5pm, and the routine takes its toll. In the past two years, Mrs Nuanes has taken partial sick-leave because she felt burnt out. "It wasn't so much because of the actual teaching," she says. "It was more what being a teacher involves nowadays."

Since the mid-1980s when she qualified, the role of the teacher has become increasingly holistic. Though trained in two subjects, primary teachers are expected to teach a bit of everything. Other duties include twice-weekly staff meetings and documenting a class's progress in weekly letters to parents. They must also supervise breaks, lunch, organise class trips and perform various other duties.

Teachers are also required by law to monitor their pupils' psychological and social well-being, and to get involved if necessary. Twice in her career Mrs Nuanes has had to bring in social services to deal with problems.

"It's tough," she says. "It affected me deeply, but there's little support for teachers when this happens."

After 20 years in the profession, Mrs Nuanes believes the holistic approach and the dwindling resources have put teachers under immense pressure.

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