Councillor Godzik on stress in the modern classroom

The following article was published in the Edinburgh Evening News on Saturday 12 January 2013.

Councillor Paul Godzik, Convener for Education, Children and Families Committee talks about the impact of stress in today's classroom and how the City of Edinburgh Council are tackling this issue head-on.

"There's no denying that being a school teacher today can be a difficult and challenging role.  In Edinburgh we have been in the positive position of being able to reduce stress-related sickness absence amongst school teachers by more than 50% in the last three years.  However, there is still a way to go in ensuring this issue is being dealt with in all schools and teachers are getting the support they need.

"This issue, of course, also impacts our pupils who deserve a full and rounded education and incidences of teacher absence can have a negative impact on learning which is another concern for us.  One of the ways in which we help address these issues is by making sure when staff show signs of stress-related illness, or do end up taking time off as a result, that they are aware they can access counselling should they need it and direct them to it. This is true of all our staff and not solely our teaching staff. 

"Our Head Teachers should be constantly on the look out for signs of stress in their staff and respond accordingly; however, all staff are made aware of the help that is available to them.  Collectively, we aim to prevent stress in the workplace and when it does happen, to address it head-on. Extra training is available for management staff to help deal with stress-related illnesses and managers are encouraged to seek support and advice if required.

"As in any role or organisation, significant change can be an area for concern amongst staff. However, by working closely with schools to ensure concerns are pre-empted and issues are dealt with promptly, we have managed to keep stress-related absence levels down.  Similarly, we work with the unions to make sure the support required by teachers is available and that each individual feels supported and valued.

"It's hard to imagine the day will come when there are absolutely no teachers off with stress-related illness, but that's no reason why we shouldn't try to reach that goal and hopefully prevent a lot of problems and heartache on the way."

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