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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Stress concern for teachers
Teacher and class
Stress is a major cause of teacher absenteeism
Proper counselling services for stressed teachers in Scotland could save more than 1m in sick pay each year, it has been claimed.

Teacher Support Scotland (TSS) is about to start research to find out how best to reduce pressure in the classroom.

About 43m of salary is paid out to teachers in Scotland each year while they are off sick.

And that does not include the cost of finding supply teachers or filling posts.

Teacher with children
TSS says teachers' workloads are rising

Research shows that stress plays a major part in absenteeism, and it is the fourth most common reason teachers are off sick.

TSS claimed that teachers were suffering far greater levels of stress than people in many other jobs.

But at the moment, help available for stressed teachers in Scotland is "patchy".

TSS said it was time a national support network was set up.

It is about to launch research to find what kind of help and advice is most effective.

And it claims that the savings made by preventing teacher stress would save Scottish education services more than 1m.

'Time bomb'

Mike Finlayson, of TSS, said: "Some authorities, and I have to say they are in the minority, do offer quite comprehensive support services to individual teachers and are also recognising they need to do something about the way the profession is perceived.

"But, other authorities do very little. What we need to do is establish what good practice actually is and then map the country to see how people are comparing against that and then to look at what kind of services we should be providing."

Depressed man
Absenteeism is costing millions of pounds

TSS also warned that more needed to be done to attract people to the profession, which is set to lose 17,500 staff in the next nine years, according to Scottish Executive figures.

It said low pay and the high pressure faced by teachers in today's classrooms meant an "alarmingly high" level of people were put off entering the profession or dropped out within the first two years.

The organisation, which was set up six months ago, also said about 150 teachers retire from the profession every year after falling victim to psychiatric illness.

'Unique pressures'

Mr Finlayson said that meant the education sector was facing a "time bomb" due to the fact that 40% of teachers were set to retire within the next ten years.

He said: "The issue of the wellbeing of teachers is of major significance to the future of the teaching profession and the education experience of young people.

"Teachers face unique pressures which most people are not aware of and we want to highlight these and take steps to help them."

He added: "It is very fashionable to knock teachers these days, yet they are taking on much larger roles than ever before and having to take on far greater responsibilities."

Mr Finlayson said the added pressures of curriculums and the emphasis on results and league tables was creating additional pressures.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Education correspondent Martha Fairlie reports
"More and more teachers are suffering from stress"
See also:

08 Jun 01 | Scotland
Teachers vote for boycott
12 Jan 01 | Scotland
Approval for teachers' pay deal
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