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Last Updated: Monday, 17 April 2006, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Stressed head quitting in tears
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website, at the NUT conference, Torquay

John Illingworth
Head teacher John Illingworth said he felt 'bullied' by government
A tearful head teacher has told an education union conference how he is quitting after 33 years through stress.

John Illingworth, 55, a former president of the National Union of Teachers, said he was ill after being "bullied by government".

Trembling, he said: "My illness has been caused by the cumulative stress of work over many years which has become beyond my capacity to manage."

Delegates voted for national union guidelines to curb excessive workloads.

There were complaints that the union's executive had not carried out a resolution passed at the annual conference last year, demanding similar guidelines backed by industrial action to secure the necessary funding.

'Too late'

Mr Illingworth is on sick leave from his post as head of Bentinck primary and nursery school in inner-city Nottingham, which he has held for seven years.

He has been a head teacher since 1993 and this is his third school.

As well as being the union's president in 2001-02 he considered challenging for the post of general secretary.

He told its conference, being held in Torquay, that the resolution on reducing teachers' workloads had come "too late" to help him.

"The illness has changed my life," he said.

"It was the cause of my standing down from the general secretary election two-and-a-half years ago."

He added: "I tried as a primary head to lead my school in a way that was consistent with NUT principles, resisting imposition of initiatives by Tories and New Labour.

"But I have always felt bullied by government."

'My health comes first'

He praised the "great people" who had helped him cope with his condition, which was now improving, he said.

"But in the end the best way to deal with unmanageable stress is to remove the cause of it. I'm doing just that," he said.

"I'm removing the cause of stress by leaving teaching.

"I think I have been a good head and a good teacher, but for me, enough is enough. My health comes first."

With delegates on their feet applauding him, the union's current president, Judy Moorhouse, said: "I think it's absolutely appalling that someone should have to stand in front of a conference for the whole world to know what's going on, school by school, across the country."

The number of people choosing to become teachers continues to rise to 421,000 in 2005 compared with 399,200 in 1997

Much of the conference debate turned on whether the issue should be tackled nationally by the union or, as its leaders proposed, on a school-by-school basis.

The leadership lost out, with delegates arguing that members in individual schools did not always feel able to stand up for their rights.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said later: "Since 1997, teachers have seen the average size of their classes decrease, more help from a record number of classroom assistants, allocated preparation time for lessons and a substantial rise in their salaries.

"Teachers' pay has risen from an average of 23,000 in 1997 to 30,470 today. And the maximum head teachers can now be paid has risen by more than 35 per cent to 93,297.

"Teaching continues to be a much-sought after and valued profession. The number of people choosing to become teachers continues to rise to 421,000 in 2005 compared with 399,200 in 1997."

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