Warning on stress levels in further education

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union
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RISING numbers of college workers report feeling stressed and worn-out amid heavy workloads, long days and major changes in the workplace, according to a survey.

Almost nine in 10 (87 per cent) say they find their job stressful, according to a poll by the University and College Union (UCU), compared with just under three in four (73 per cent) who said the same in 2012.

A similar proportion (89 per cent) of the 2,251 union members questioned said they usually feel worn out at the end of the day, while 88 per cent said they find it difficult to unwind.

And nearly half (46 per cent) said they always, or almost always, neglect their personal needs because of work demands.

The union’s survey shows that many staff feel under pressure to come in when they are sick and also indicates that many believe they are being forced to perform unnecessary tasks.

Overall, around nine in 10 (89 per cent) said that they have felt the need to go into work when they are unwell on at least some occasions

Many said this was down to the pressures of their job, lack of cover, or a reluctance to let students down and further burden their colleagues.

Just over two thirds (68 per cent) claimed they had been asked to carry out work they considered unreasonable.

Almost a third of those polled claimed that they had worked more than 50 hours a week.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The report details how a lack of stability in the sector is one of the main causes of huge stress for staff,” she said. “The sector and the people who work in it desperately need some stability.

“For the first time we explored the problems with the constant changes staff have to deal with and we found that more than two-thirds of staff said too many changes had been introduced in their institution.

The findings follow claims from ChildLine that children are increasingly suffering from stress through exams.

The helpline said it has seen a 200 per cent increase in youngsters mentioning the issue during counselling sessions.

NSPCC chief Peter Wanless said the figures show that the pressure to perform well is being felt by a rising number of young people.