A U.K. junior high school head teacher who filed suit against his school’s governing body and the city council after work-related stress cost him his job, lost his battle for compensation last week in the courtroom.
Ernest Longstaffe, was appointed head of Hill View Junior School in 1991; he retired from that post in 1999, citing medical reasons. In his suit, Longstaffe claimed the city council and the school’s governing body had exposed him to stress that caused an “foreseeable and unnecessary risk” of injury and suffering. Longstaffe alleged long hours, staff shortages, budget cuts and lack of support created anxiety and depression sufficient to cause him to lose his career. Longstaffe also claimed that when he discussed these problems and the stress they were causing him with the governing board’s chair in 1997, he was told he would “have to hack it or go.”
The judge dismissed the case on the grounds that the city council and school governing body were not directly responsible for causing Longstaffe’s stress or making it worse.
Stress in the teaching profession has been a long-standing concern. According to the BBC, 53% of England’s teachers expect to leave the profession within ten years because of work-related stress. And in New South Wales, more than 23,000 teacher working days were lost in 2001 due to stress-related leave. The reasons most often cited by teachers for their work-related stress include heavy workloads and bureaucracy. According to the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union, teacher stress isn’t a one-time issue and instead arises over many years. However, the BBC reported that even the youngest teachers report work-related stress sufficient enough to cause them to rethink their careers.
Sources: icnewcastle.co.uk, bbc.com, NSW Teacher’s Federation, NSTU