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Mental health problems highest among education workers, says Union

By James Fountain

The country’s main teaching union is calling on the government to tackle unprecedented levels of mental health problems in education.

Andrew Morris, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union told Yorkshire Voice: “Education workers have the highest rates of work related stress, depression and anxiety.

“80% of NEU members say their working hours have increased in the past two years and the same proportion have considered leaving the profession in the last year.”

Progress 8, a recent government scheme introduced in September 2016, has created an expectation that all children in Year 7 make progress based on the tests they did in Year 6.

Jamie Squire, 43, currently a secondary drama teacher in the Bradford area, said: “The pressure on teachers has massively increased because of this.

“Some teachers work 16-hour days – it is now common for them to be off work with stress.”

A former secondary maths teacher in the Leeds area left the profession last year due to mental health problems caused by teaching, saying it was impossible to do all of the work required.

“When I told more senior teachers about this I received no support, and had to go on anxiety medication and get private therapy.

“There were 10 others off due to mental health problems in the time I was off due to stress issues.”

Government figures show 9.9% of all secondary school teachers left the profession last year, up from 8.8% the previous year.

The Education Support Partnership have released figures saying “tearfulness” among secondary teachers is up from 31% in 2017 to 44% this year.

Victoria Richings, 41, a former head of social science in the Peterborough area, also decided to retire in August 2017, and is now a private yoga teacher.

She said: “I worked in four institutions in my 15-year career, and regularly saw colleagues’ mental health suffer as a result of the extra pressure and workload.

“In addition to my own heavy teaching load, I was called upon to cover the classes of my absent colleague, at one point for six months.”

Mr Morris of the NEU said: “The government must do more to tackle work-related stress, including the drivers of excessive workload such as the target-based culture in schools.

“Teachers should be trusted, not burdened with unnecessary and excessive tasks relating to data, marking and planning.”

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