Thousands of teachers are on long-term stress leave, new figures reveal

The Liberal Democrats say the statistics indicate the 'impossible pressures' that teachers are under

Adi Bloom

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Thousands of teachers in England are on long-term stress leave, with numbers rising each year, new figures reveal.

There were 3,750 teachers on long-term leave for stress during the academic year 2016-17, according to research by the Liberal Democrats. This represents an increase of five per cent since the previous year.

The  Liberal Democrats said that the figures made clear “the impossible pressures” teachers are under. They added that the situation was exacerbated by the teacher recruitment crisis, and by an obsession with exam results.

'Impossible pressures'

The figures, obtained from local authorities, reveal that one in 83 teachers was absent for work for a month or more in 2016-17, as a result of stress or mental health issues. The previous year, the equivalent figure was one in 90 teachers; three years ago, it was one in 95.

In total, teachers have taken 1.3 million days off work over the last four years, because of stress or mental health problems.

In the 2016-17 academic year, they took approximately 312,000 days off work for these reasons. This is equivalent to losing 1,600 teachers over the course of the working year.

Layla Moran, Lib Dem education spokesperson, said: “These figures lay bare the impossible pressures our teachers are being put under.

“It is simply unacceptable that those working tirelessly to do the best for our children are seeing their mental ill-health affected as a result.”

'Overworked and undervalued'

She added that she had heard repeated stories of teacher burnout as a result of excessive workload or mishandled Ofsted inspections.

“This must be a wake-up call to the new education secretary, Damian Hinds,” she said. “The government must also end the real-term cuts to pay for teachers that are leaving them feeling overworked and undervalued.”

The figures were based on responses to freedom-of-information requests from 82 of the 152 councils in England. Fifty-three councils said that they did not hold the relevant information, and 17 did not respond to the query.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Teachers play an important role in our society, and there are now more teachers in our schools than ever before – 15,500 more since 2010.

“We continue to work with teachers, unions and Ofsted to tackle unnecessary workload and challenge unhelpful practices that create extra work, which includes a programme of targeted support for schools.

“Guidance to governing bodies is clear that they have a responsibility to take work-life balance into account when managing staff. Where staff are struggling, we trust headteachers to take action to tackle the causes of stress and ensure they have the support they need.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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