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Teachers stressed by work

10/01/12: A reported £650,000 has been awarded in compensation to teachers who have suffered work-related injuries in Scottish schools.

One teacher who received a six-figure settlement outside of court, and who did not want to be identified, claimed she had suffered a psychiatric injury related to stress. The teacher was reportedly awarded roughly £250,000. It was the largest payout ever seen, as a result of occupational stress, according to the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS); which is also the largest teaching union in Scotland.

This was just one of the claims stemming from injuries at work, but other such instances have included a teacher who was injured when a pupil swung the door in their face and one teacher who was physically assaulted while playing football.

Ronnie Smith, the EIS’ general secretary, claimed that this was a warning to employers about the dangers of occupational stress facing teachers. Mr. Smith went on to say that employers must take into account the mental wellbeing of their employees.

Mr. Smith said the highlighted case was an example of how serious these injuries could be and a message that a strong support system for staff had to be taken advantage of. His solution to the problem was for local councils, who are already facing cuts, to manage the workload in a more efficient manner.

The £650k paid out in the last year is a significant hike against the 2008 figure of $181k (the last time figures were available). The union reported that the 2011 total amount of compensation and the single claim of £250,000 were both the largest on record.

These claims have come when councils are been forced to make cuts to their education budgets which have placed many schools in a difficult position when trying to balance their own books.

The general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Ann Ballinger, revealed that on average teachers were spending an extra ten hours a week developing material, marking work, and planning their lessons. According to the general secretary, some teachers were having trouble sleeping and having problems handling their own family life due to their constant need to work. Working during their holidays and during the weekend is common practise among teachers. Ann Ballinger also added that this dangerous combination of factors went a long way to causing serious mental damage which many never recover from.

Additional stress came last year when Scottish teaches took the decision to go on a national strike over pensions. This was the first national strike by teachers since 1986. The EIS has also claimed it will take further action if the recommendations in the controversial McCormac report are introduced without consulting the unions.

Anxiety has also stemmed from the new Curriculum for Excellence which was introduced in 2010. This new curriculum has only placed additional stress on to teachers, many opponents of the new system have claimed.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government has said the Government expect local councils to help reduce stress and injury through their own local procedures. COSLA, which represents Scottish local councils, has commented that local authorities should deal with compensation claims.

In 2010 there were also recommendations that teachers should have reduced workloads in order to combat stress and mental health issues.

£32 billion each year in compensation, sick pay, and medical costs was what it cost the UK economy last year a study has shown.