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Warning over teacher stress crisis in Yorkshire schools

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A surveillance culture in the classroom and intense exam pressures are fuelling a crisis in schools, experts have warned, with rising numbers of teachers facing burnout from stress.

Across Yorkshire, analysis has found, the equivalent of 403 teachers were lost to stress in 2017, with a 10 per cent rise in the numbers on leave for a month or more citing their mental health.

Stress mounting in classrooms, teacher warns

As research reveals trainee teachers are now feeling the pressure before they even enter the classroom, there are calls for urgent and fundamental reform.

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran MP warned “Government ministers would do well to take heed” to the immense pressure teachers are under.

“In Yorkshire, as with many other parts of the country, the number of teachers on long-term leave for stress or mental health is rising at a terribly worrying rate,” she said.

“As a former teacher, I know how hard teachers work to give young people the best chance in life. They must never be left vulnerable to mental ill-health, particularly because of a failed system of mishandled inspections or a culture of ill-judged high-stakes testing. Sadly, we know that from the get-go even trainee teachers are feeling the weight of stress and anxiety.

“It is no wonder that the country is faced with a serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”

The analysis by the Lib Dems found 967 teachers were on long-term leave with stress last year. It comes as research by Leeds Beckett University finds trainee teachers are suffering before they even enter the classroom, with 88 per cent saying their course caused them stress and one in five suffering depression.

Professor Jonathan Glazzard, who leads research at the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, said: “Children and young people benefit enormously when their teachers are relaxed, refreshed, energetic and passionate. Teaching is, and always has been, hard work. However, the current emphasis on accountability has resulted in significant increases in workload for all teachers.

“The challenge for schools is to focus on the really essential tasks which improve outcomes for pupils and to remove tasks which have little or no impact on them.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said a number of measures have been brought in to tackle the issue: “The Education Secretary has been clear that there can be no great schools without great teachers and we have committed to tackling issues that could affect teacher’s mental health and wellbeing.

“We are working with the profession, unions and Ofsted to strip away workload that doesn’t add value, improve conditions and offer all teachers high quality professional development. “Trainee teachers are also offered advice on well-being and maintaining a sustainable work/life balance as part of their training.”