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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 12:13 GMT
Classroom stress for primary teachers

classroom Some teachers cannot unwind after work

Primary school classroom teachers suffer more stress than secondary school teachers, deputy head teachers and headteachers, according to a study.

Educational researchers questioned and monitored the stress levels of 780 primary and secondary teachers in 126 south London schools.

It was the primary teachers, who are responsible for the education and welfare of one class throughout the school year, who reported the highest levels of stress.

Two of the main sources of this stress were cited as work pressure and student misbehaviour.

The researchers say this stress could be putting teachers' health at risk, as many find themselves unable to unwind out of school.

pupils Well-behaved pupils help lower teachers' stress levels
The study revealed that highly stressed teachers let work dominate their lives to such an extent that instead of coping with their stress, they brought work home, cutting back on their social and family lives.

Some exhibited "distracting behaviour" - turning to other activities, such as watching television - while others gave up trying to do anything about situations.

All these practices made them even more stressed, and when their blood pressure levels and heart rates were measured, they were found to be much higher throughout the evening than those of teachers who reported feeling less stressed.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, also revealed that female teachers were more stressed than their male colleagues.

And it showed that teachers who had less "social support" at work, in the form of a "cohesive work environment", support from colleagues, and interpersonal relationships, suffered higher stress levels.

Curriculum reforms

Dr Jayne Griffith, of University College London, who wrote the study with Professor Andrew Steptoe and Dr Mark Cropley, of St George's Hospital Medical School, London, said teachers' workloads had been assessed in terms of quantities of marking and administration, the misbehaviour of pupils, and pressure from head teachers and education officers to get results.

She said: "We thought that may be the reason why primary school classroom teachers were the most stressed could be down to the constant curriculum reforms going on in primary schools.

"It could also be because primary school teachers stay with one class every day for a whole year. They're not only responsible for their education activities, they're responsible for their social and moral development."

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Green Paper
Teachers seek working hours limit
01 Oct 99 |  Education
Ex-teacher wins damages for stress
08 Sep 99 |  Education
'Teaching caused my breakdown'
09 Sep 99 |  Education
Helpline for stressed teachers

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