New Education Minister Must Tackle Stress

25 July 2016

Wales’ largest Union for qualified teachers says the new Education Minister will need to put teacher’s workload at the very top of her to do list after figures obtained via freedom of information requests show stress related illnesses continue to blight the profession.

NUT Cymru research has discovered 51,795 days were lost to stress related illnesses last year, an increase of 2,568 on 2014. The overall total since January 2012 is a staggering 202,314 missing teaching days.

NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, said:

“Workload induced stress amongst teachers is seemingly getting worse in Wales. The new Minister will of course want to get to grips with some of the big policy issues such as the curriculum and professional development but the stark reality is that unless we deal with this concern the success of all other initiatives is put at risk. We can’t continually expect the teaching profession to deliver record breaking results when we are seeing record breaking levels of mental ill-health problems due to the pressures they are being placed under.

“It is important to recognise that the last Welsh Government acknowledged this problem and indeed tasked pioneer schools with the responsibility of factoring it into their work on the curriculum. The new Minister will need to examine what solution may potentially come out of that work. Having written to the Minister with this data we know of her commitment to this issue. We are also grateful that she is exploring how reducing class sizes can play a role in reducing the workload burden on the profession. We are looking forward to discussing further with the Minister how we can work with her in supporting any and all initiatives designed to reduce stress on staff.

David Evans added:

“When you consider the financial implications of not getting to grips with this problem it is staggering. The 202,314 days that have been lost to schools due to stress related illnesses over the past four years works out at around the equivalent of £34.4m for supply cover. This is all at a time where school budgets are at breaking point. As things stand we are bordering on a crisis in the profession.”

Notes to editor:

* Overall there was an additional 2,567 days lost due to stress related illnesses in 2015 in comparison to figures compiled for 2014.
* 12 of the 22 local authorities in Wales saw an increase in the number of days lost to stress related illnesses.
* The largest number in regards to days occurred in Cardiff with an increase of 1,353 days lost.
* 3 of the 4 consortia regions saw in increase with the largest increase by days occurring in the ERW region (1,664).
* The figures were collated through freedom of information requests to each local authority in Wales. The request asked; “Under the freedom of information act can I please request details of the number of days sick leave taken by teachers between January 1st 2015 – December 31st 2015 due to stress/anxiety or any other registered mental health issue.”

OCR