Friday, April 08, 2005
Nearly half of teachers have suffered from mental illness
Education: "By Richard Garner, Education Editor
23 March 2005

Nearly half of the country's secondary school teachers have suffered mental health problems due to worsening pupil behaviour, a survey has revealed.

The research, by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, on 300 secondary school teachers, showed that abuse at the hands of pupils had left 46 per cent taking antidepressants or facing long lay-offs from school through stress.

One teacher told researchers he had been assaulted 10 times during 18 years in the profession and had suffered two breakdowns. He said he had been on antidepressants for more than three years as a result.

The survey also revealed that 72 per cent of teachers had considered quitting their jobs because they were worn out by some pupils' persistent disruptive behaviour, such as threats, swearing, locking teachers out of classrooms, vandalising school property, letting down car tyres, stealing keys, throwing eggs at staff and spitting at them. One in seven (14 per cent) said they had suffered actually bodily harm from pupils.

However, in many of the cases, the school had turned a blind eye to abuse and failed to exclude the pupils involved.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the 160,000-strong union, will raise teachers' alarm over discipline with Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, when she addresses the ATL annual conference in Torquay today.

She said it was not enough to talk about 'zero tolerance' for disruptive behaviour as Ms Kelly had done. 'There needs to be a reflection about what zero tolerance means,' she added.

'It should mean much better support for teachers and more pupil referral units - 'sin-bins'. These youngsters have to go somewhere. What we can't do as a society is leave them to roam the streets.'

Yesterday the conference demanded a code of conduct to outline acceptable pupil behaviour and called for risk assessments to be prepared on all pupils with a history of aggression.

Doctor Bousted said: 'Teaching is a highly intensive, highly stressful job. Teachers need to understand there are forms of help available to them and when they are feeling stressed they need to know this is not something that's shameful and they should seek help.'

Meanwhile, delegates voted unanimously to urge the Government to abandon its plans to set up a network of 200 privately sponsored academies to replace struggling secondary schools in inner-city areas.

Phil Baker, from Swindon, claimed they were a 'Trojan Horse', pioneering the way for privatisation of the entire education system. He said many of the sponsors - who included top independent schools - had little experience of tackling pupil disruption. 'Top public schools could run them [the academies],'' he said. 'The only experience they've had of managing challenging behaviour is dealing with Hooray Henrys.'

Dr Bousted said many of the academies adopted a banding system - taking 20 per cent of its pupils from each of five different ability bands. 'In some areas the academies cover, 20 per cent of the most able is hoovering up the vast majority of able pupils in that area,' she said, adding that other schools suffered as a result."

jaynote: only half?

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