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Stressed? Tell the boss

4th February 2008

Remember the old advert? "Tense, nervous headache?" These days those symptoms mean that you're probably a teacher - and it will need more than a well known brand of pain relief to solve the problem!

The trouble with stress is that people are very reluctant to admit that they are victims. They think that they must be weak or failing in some way - that it's just them. After all, everybody else can cope can't they?

Well no, they can't. In John Illingworth's survey of Nottingham teachers 80% of respondees indicated that they felt under pressure. Pressure is not the same as stress. The HSE define stress as the adverse reaction people have to pressure or other types of demand placed on them. However, when one in three teachers who responded to the survey admit that they have resorted to alcohol, smoking, other substances or unhealthy eating to help them cope with their jobs, there is clearly a large number of teachers suffering from genuine and serious stress. If you're one of them then there is nothing to be ashamed of.

The first (and probably the hardest) step is to admit to yourself that there is a problem. The second important thing is to tell your Headteacher or Principal. Employers have a duty to make sure that risks arising from work activity are properly controlled. This includes stress. If they have not been told that there is something wrong, then they could reasonably claim that they didn't know. This could then be used as a defence in the event of a compensation claim for what is, in effect, a work related injury.

Managers do have a duty to monitor stress levels and they should be aware of the effects that their policies and strategies are having on staff. If you feel that the issue of stress is being ignored at your establishment, it is important to ask your school or college Health and Safety Rep (or in their absence the NUT rep) to raise the matter. Your Safety Committee may wish to carry out the stress survey available free from the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/stress/index.htm.

For further advice on this, or any other health and safety issue, please contact Andy or the Union office.

 

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