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By Mike Baker
BBC education correspondent
grumblers, moaning minnies: it seems that's the way many people outside
education regard teachers.
This week's analysis of to the Teacher Line, showing one
teacher in 15 called for help last year, produced a very divided response.
Teachers told BBC News Online theirs was one of the professions,
while non-teachers were , saying "get out into
the real world".
So is teaching any more than other ?
Well, the , it there is which suggests
A few years ago the Health and Safety Executive published a from
Cardiff University which, other , compared stress in
of the more sceptical non-teachers among you might say it proves nothing
except that teachers complain more than others"
- The scale of occupational stress - that 20% of people
high levels of stress . teachers the was
teachers this particular , with 41% reporting
levels of stress.
The was at 31% then "" at 27%.
Interestingly the more people , and the higher their of educational
qualifications, the more they were to stress.
(As an , I was interested to note that the -stressed group was
those working in "moving/storing". In my student days I worked
as a man and, except when the client wanted the piano put into
an bedroom, it was fairly stress-. you, it was
Now of course this was based on people's of stress.
So some of the more non-teachers among you might say it proves
nothing except that teachers more than others.
But it would be impossible to prove which job category is the ,
the admit that if teachers are in large
numbers they must be unhappy about their work. And it is perception that
counts when discussing stress.
the problem be , even if others think teachers are
is not a competition for who works the most days or the longest hours"
if teachers feel unhappy this will have an impact on the children they teach, on recruitment and retention levels, not to mention the
So those who point to teachers' long
This is not a competition for who works the most days or the longest hours,
or even who is under the greatest pressure to
about the state of mind of .
And on that score, it ,
teachers' state of mind is often not a happy one. The fact that nursing
behind might suggest some possible causes.
Teachers and nurses both work in highly structured, hierarchical
where there is a lot of public sector accountability and a lot of face-to-face
contact with the public.
So which of these characteristics is the biggest cause of stress? E-mails
to BBC News Online seemed to
as a major cause of the problem.
those taking that view were people who worked in schools but not as teachers.
A school office worker and an
both said they could not the abuse teachers from pupils.
was not the biggest
for calls to the Teacher Support Line.
category for work-
stress calls was "conflict".
Last year, 5,382 teachers the helpline because they were in conflict with either their manager,
a colleague, a parent or a governor.
this number had called because of problems with pupil behaviour.
by this to minimise the effect of pupil indiscipline on teachers. Other
surveys have suggested this is a major cause of their
But pupil behaviour is an
in respect for authority.
By contrast, resolving problems with
and colleagues (which
91% of the "conflict" )
do lie within the capability of schools.
England v France
at this weekend's head teachers' conference, there should be some discussion
about why school staff feel their managers are a major cause of their
stress and anxiety.
One other reflection is prompted by reading about a study which compared
teacher stress in England and in France.
The report* 800 teachers and substantially different responses:
22% of sick leave in England was attributed to stress, as opposed to 1%
More than half of the English teachers as opposed to of the French
reported recently having considered
these differences, both English and French teachers
social status and of as causes of stress.
why the difference in stress ? French teachers certainly work
hours and are not expected to be in school except when they are
A similar is taken in other countries. In Russia, for example,
teachers a contract which specifies how many hours teaching they
this is one solution: greater flexibility over contract hours with teachers
encouraged to get out of the school (and away from the others in the staff-room)
when they are not timetabled to teach.
Perhaps that is the secret of the French teachers: an hour with Year 9,
then down to the café or bar for an hour before returning, relaxed,
for the next class?
*Cited in the newsletter of the International Stress Management Association