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Nearly a quarter of teachers use alcohol to cope with stresses of the job, survey suggests | UK News

Almost nine in 10 teachers believe their job has adversely affected their mental health in the past 12 months, according to a survey.

Nearly a quarter of teachers had used alcohol in an effort to cope, while 12% have used antidepressants, the poll of 11,574 NASUWT teaching union members found.

Some 3% said the stresses of their work had driven them to self-harm.

One of the teachers who responded to the survey said they vomited before work and had cried at school due to “badly behaved students” who left them unable to teach a class.

Another said: “My energy levels have never been this low before.

“I have never felt so anxious and have very little confidence in myself.

“I feel as though my bucket is full most of the time at work and that I maybe can’t deal with challenging pupils as well as I would normally.”

The teaching union warned of a “rise in suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts” within the profession, with a motion on the topic to be debated at its national conference this weekend.

The motion calls for suicide prevention training for school leaders, and fully-funded mandatory mental health training in schools and colleges.

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Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Nobody should be brought to the brink of ending their own life because of their job.

“We need a two-pronged approach to addressing the epidemic of mental ill health among the teaching profession, which both tackles the factors driving work-related stress, while also putting in place greater support systems for teachers and school leaders.”

He also said teachers need better welfare support, adding: “The status quo is not an option.

“Too many teachers are having their health destroyed and others are leaving the profession in a bid to save their sanity.

“There is no intrinsic reason why teaching should have such high levels of burnout. Things can and should be different and we need the next government to work with us to restore teaching to a profession where teachers can thrive, not just struggle to survive.”

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It comes after the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry, who killed herself after an Ofsted report downgraded her school – Caversham Primary in Reading – from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise the extraordinary work that headteachers, teachers and other staff in schools provide, and we take their wellbeing very seriously.

“Our Education Staff Wellbeing Charter ensures that staff wellbeing policy is integrated within schools’ culture alongside the expansion of our £2m investment to provide professional supervision and counselling to school and college leaders.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

Williamson accused teachers of looking for an ‘excuse’ not to work during pandemic, Hancock’s leaked messages suggest | UK News

Sir Gavin Williamson accused teachers of looking for an “excuse” not to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to leaked messages from Matt Hancock published by The Daily Telegraph.

In May 2020, as teachers prepared for classrooms to reopen, the then education secretary had messaged Mr Hancock asking for help in securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for schools.

He said this was so staff could not use a lack of it as “a reason not to open”.

He added: “All of them will but some will just want to say they can’t so they have an excuse to avoid having to teach, what joys!!!”

It was a rather different view to the one he expressed in public that same month, praising teachers for “going above and beyond the call of duty”, adding: “You have simply been outstanding and we are so grateful for what you’ve done”.

Five months later, Mr Hancock messaged Sir Gavin to congratulate him on his decision to delay A-level exams for a few weeks, due to the virus.

Mr Hancock, then the health secretary, wrote: “Cracking announcement today.

“What a bunch of absolute arses the teaching unions are.”

Sir Gavin Williamson. Pic: AP
Image:
Sir Gavin Williamson. Pic: AP

Sir Gavin responded: “I know they really really do just hate work.”

Mr Hancock’s reply was two laughing face emojis and a bullseye.

Read more:
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The decision to close schools was made by the government in March 2020, although some schools had already made the choice for themselves.

Over the following year, children endured a rollercoaster of reopenings and closures, as the country tried to strike a balance between containing the virus and resuming normal life.

Unions and schools had repeatedly said they did not want to put teachers or vulnerable children at risk.

But the government also faced a problem in that parents were having to stay home to look after children during school closures, preventing them from returning fully to work.

A number of reports since then have documented the negative consequences for students.

In January 2021, research from the Social Mobility Foundation said the closures could wipe out a decade of progress closing the gap between less privileged pupils and their peers.

And in May 2021, a study by think tank Social Finance found that disadvantaged children were the least likely to return to school after lockdown.

Teachers’ union could be next to announce strike as wave of industrial action continues | UK News

Thousands of teachers could be set to walk off the job as the National Education Union (NEU) prepares to announce the result of a strike ballot on Monday.

The NEU has said walkouts could begin at the end of the month after more than 300,000 teachers and support staff were asked to vote in a dispute over pay.

The union will have to give two weeks’ notice of any industrial action.

A ballot of members of the NASUWT teachers union last week failed to reach the 50% turnout threshold, although nine in 10 of those who did vote backed strikes.

The NEU announcement will come as the wave of industrial action which has swept across the country for months will continue this week.

Nurses across England will walk out on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that if progress is not made in negotiations by the end of January the next set of strikes will include all eligible members in England for the first time.

The government continues to insist that pay claims are unaffordable and is sticking to its line that wage rises should be decided by pay review bodies.

Health unions are refusing to submit any evidence to the NHS pay review body for the 2023/24 pay rise until the current dispute is resolved.

Ambulance workers on the picket line in London earlier this month
Image:
Ambulance workers on the picket line in London earlier this month

Meanwhile, leaders from the GMB union will meet on Monday to decide whether to call more strikes among their ambulance members because of the lack of progress in talks.

Any decision is likely to be announced later in the week.

On Wednesday, Unison members at the Environment Agency will go on strike in a dispute over pay.

Talks will continue between rail unions and train operators in a fresh attempt to resolve the long-running row which has led to a series of strikes since last summer.

Both sides say they are working towards a revised offer.

It comes as the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) is pressing ahead with a strike on February 1 by 100,000 civil servants which will have an impact on governments, driving test centres, museums, ports and airports.

Read more:
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Rail companies given ‘permission’ by transport secretary to make new offer to unions this week

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Teacher strike would be ‘regrettable’

The TUC is organising a series of protests on 1 February against the government’s controversial proposed new law on strikes.

Planned legislation aimed at ensuring minimum levels of service during strikes will receive its Second Reading in parliament on Monday.

A demonstration will be held outside Downing Street to protest against the government’s move.

PCS members working as legal advisers and court associates in more than 80 courts across England and Wales are also to take further strike action in a long-running dispute about a case management system called Common Platform.

Around 300 PCS members will take action on 21 January and 28 January.

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PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “As long as managers continue to ignore our members, our members will continue to resist the unworkable Common Platform system and fight for the integrity of the entire justice system.”

This week’s industrial action will take place after the government was accused of attempting to “steamroller” through new legislation on strikes amid mounting anger over the “spiteful” measure.

A bill on ensuring minimum levels of service during industrial action will receive its Second Reading in parliament on Monday as part of ministers’ response to months of strikes and more walkouts due in the coming weeks.

Labour said it will oppose the legislation and any attempts to fast track it through parliament without proper scrutiny.

The TUC said the planned law would give ministers sweeping new powers that restrict the right to strike.