Stressed Teachers to Sue

Article excerpt

Stressed teachers in the Midlands are seeking huge compensation awards from cash-strapped councils because they say they are being bullied and overworked.

The National Union of Teachers is representing 12 members in the region who plan to sue their local authorities as it emerged staff in the Midlands are the most stressed in Britain.

The legal action follows a landmark court ruling last year when former housing officer Mrs Beverley Lancaster won pounds 67,000 compensation from Birmingham City Council for stress she suffered at work. The award set a precedent and has opened the door for similar claims against employers.

The organisers of a new national helpline offering support and counselling said Midland teachers were more stressed than their colleagues elsewhere.

The Teachers' Benevolent Fund, a charity set up by the NUT, said its Teacherline service has received 600 calls from the Midlands since it opened last September. This compares with 550 calls from Greater London, 550 from the North East and 400 from the North West.

Teachers' Benevolent Fund chief executive Mr Patrick Nash said: 'The rapid rate of educational change, coupled with increasing pressure and rising expectation, are taking their toll.'

The most common calls included complaints from teachers about increasing workloads. Staff spoke of 'transporting mountains of paper between home and school' and 'feeling overwhelmed by new initiatives'.

Another cause of stress was feelings of helplessness in the face of uncontrollable children in the classroom. Teachers said they felt the Government's inclusion policy - which encourages local authorities to keep all youngsters in mainstream schools - has taken away the traditional sanction of expelling troublemakers.

Teachers also complained of bullying, by both colleagues and managers. The fund also said there was increased stress before and during inspections by Ofsted.

It said many staff were worried they would fail to do themselves justice and inspectors would focus on the school's problems rather than its strengths. …