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Teachers exhausted by heavy workload


Monday, 16 July 2007

Teachers exhausted by heavy workload

16/07/2007 The Irish News

Teachers are suffering depression, insomnia and difficulties with their home life because they are overworked.

Many are enduring chronic exhaustion from working twice as many hours as contracted, a survey by The Irish News reveals.

In a special feature today teachers at the end of another school year warn that job satisfaction is "sliding into an abyss".

They say their job is both physically and mentally exhausting and so complex and diverse that there are not enough hours in a working day. This often causes stress and feelings of inadequacy and underachievement.

Teachers admit that the standard of their work is being diminished by long hours, which means pupils are also not always enjoying quality learning.

A full working week for teachers should last 32.4 hours, with only 25 hours in primary and 23.5 in secondary schools actually spent in the classroom.

However, administrative tasks, parent-teacher meetings and lesson planning are causing many to work more than 50 hours each week.

And constant changes to the school system including new subject syllabuses and examination structures are causing additional stress.

Unions say teaching is a de-manding activity and involves working with an audience that can be very taxing. They say changes to working practices are a must.

One in every three of the teachers who responded to the survey said they had suffered from work-related depression. Two thirds complained of insomnia.

"Teaching takes over your life. There is never time to develop as a teacher. You are constantly striving to keep on top of your workload," one respondent said.

The survey also reveals that the quality of teachers' home life is suffering - 80 per cent said their work was having an adverse impact on life outside school.

In addition, more than three quarters of the hundreds of res-pondents said the quality of their teaching was being affected by their workload.

"At times getting the work/home life balance right can cause stress," one teacher said.

Another said: "The problem lies with lack of preparation time. Free periods are often swallowed up with mindless bureaucracy, meeting or ringing parents, marking and reporting."

The NASUWT wants the working week reduced to help prevent future stress and overwork of existing teachers.

"Members contact the Northern Ireland office every day suffering from stress, bullying and depression," regional organiser Seamus Searson said.

Frank Bunting, northern secretary of the INTO, said that nowhere else in Ireland or the UK did teachers work so hard and for so long.


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