NUT Conference 2017
18 April 2017
Commenting after the debate on Motion 23, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“There will be very few teachers who have not experienced or witnessed the huge amount of stress that the profession is now under. The TUC’s 2016 survey of safety representatives found that stress was the top concern for safety reps in education. Nearly 90% of all safety reps working in the sector cited stress as one of their main workplace health and safety concerns. (1) For many it can lead to mental health conditions that impact on their daily lives. Even more disturbingly, data on occupational suicides published by the Office for National Statistics in March 2017 shows that female primary and nursery school teachers have a heightened risk of suicide – they are 42% more likely to commit suicide than the average woman. (2) Although it may not always be possible to demonstrate a direct causal link between the stresses of teaching and such tragedies, possible links with excessive workload and stress must be taken seriously.
“This situation is simply unacceptable, particularly as it is in the main brought about by the Government’s attitudes to the teaching profession and education.
“Driven down by a culture of punitive assessment and appraisal, it is no surprise that survey after survey shows that teacher morale is low. Teachers speak of the long hours put in after school and at weekends and of the fact they have no time for their own families and friends.
“Teaching is one of the best jobs imaginable but only if its demands are reasonable, not if it is made impossible to do. There needs to be a radical rethink of how education is run and for what purpose. The findings of the Government’s most recent workload survey show that class teachers and middle leaders are working an average of 54.4 hours a week. (3) The extra hours that teachers put in on a day-to-day basis are not even benefiting children. They are not spent devising exciting and interesting lesson plans but are an endless round of box-ticking to fulfil data requirements, not children’s learning. In the process far too many teachers are leaving the profession or deciding that it is not worth training for such a stressful job. Clearly this benefits no one, least of all children and young people.”
(1) TUC Survey of Safety Reps, October 2016:
(2) ONS, Suicide by occupation, England: 2011 to 2015 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/suicidebyoccupation/england2011to2015
(3) DfE, Teacher Workload Survey 2016:
NUT Edufacts: Teacher Recruitment and Retention
NUT Edufacts: Workload
The NUT’s Annual Conference is taking place this Easter weekend in Cardiff. For the Final Agenda, please visit https://www.teachers.org.uk/sites/default/files2014/nut-final-agenda-2017-13068.pdf