The NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union secured compensation of £14,933,905.34 for members during 2018.
The compensation was awarded for successful claims including unfair dismissal, unlawful discrimination, personal injuries and criminal assault.
The NASUWT experienced a significant increase last year in cases relating to unlawful discrimination by employers towards members. These included cases where members had been subjected to discriminatory practices related to pregnancy-related and flexible-working requests, the failure to make reasonable adjustments for members with a disability, race discrimination and discrimination based on age, sexual orientation and religion or belief.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“Whilst the NASUWT has been successful in securing record compensation for members, the fact is that behind these figures is a catalogue of appalling treatment teachers have suffered at the hands of their employer.
“In most cases the money awarded does not compensate for the fact that a teacher’s physical or mental health may have been affected and they can no longer work in their chosen profession.
“Too many employers adopt an ‘anything goes’ style of management and believe they can act with impunity as the Government fails to take any action to secure compliance with employment law, allowing poor employment practices to flourish as a result of the excessive freedoms and flexibilities it has given to schools.
“These figures mask the anxiety, stress and distress many teachers will have suffered at the hands of their employers before seeking our help.
“But they also represent what we believe is only the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt that many more will have been driven out of the profession without proper redress for poor, discriminatory or unfair treatment because they were too fearful or stressed to come forward or believed nothing could be done.
“By publicising these figures the NASUWT hopes that they will encourage any teacher facing discrimination or unfair treatment to seek our help.”
On Wednesday 13th March, I attended, along with colleagues from the Barnsley Association, an event at the TES Northern Office in Sheffield on Teacher Mental Health and Wellbeing, hosted by LKMco (a research group) and the TES. The panel was chaired by Ed Dorrell (Head of Content at the TES) and he was joined by Angie Browne (Principal and co-founder of ‘NourishEd Collective’, and also seen on BBC2’s “School” programme), Professor Sam Twiselton (Director of Sheffield Hallam Institute of Education, Advisory group for teacher recruitment and retention), Ivana Vidakovic (Senior research lead at OFSTED) and Adrian Bethune (primary teacher and author of “Mindfulness in the primary classroom”.
It was the description of the event that led me to want to attend:
“Why are we talking about this now?
Last year, 3,750 teachers out of every 100,000 reported experiencing work-related illness, which is statistically significantly higher than the average of 3,180 of other professionals in other sectors, and 40% of those who train to teach don't last beyond five years in the classroom. Is it that as a profession we are predisposed to poor mental health or is there something in the culture of schools and education as whole that create the conditions for teacher burnout? In our research into teacher retention at LKMco, we frequently hear of poor teacher mental health and wellbeing: this event is a chance to talk about the experiences of teachers, examine the root causes and talk about what can be done.”
The introduction to the event led by one of the researchers at LKMco, an ex-teacher, covered some interesting statistics from research done in 2018 by the Education Support Partnership.
The questions was do we have sick teachers as a result of too many “yes” people (do teachers just need to say no more” or sick schools who demand far too much of their staff, not recognizing that teachers are being overworked as a result.
Ed Dorrell raised a question for the panel, recognizing how different the experiences are of teachers in different schools, so is the crisis here in the leadership within these different schools? There were a range of replies. Adrian Bethune thought that teaching was “inherently stressful”. He was challenged in this comment by someone saying that it really shouldn’t be that way, and that good stress is needed in all our lives, but the bad stress experienced by so many teachers should not be something that we just accept any more. Ivana Vidakovic had found in her research work with OFSTED that unnecessary and unwieldy marking and assessment was the major cause of stress in teachers. Angie Browne picked up on the “crisis in leadership” comment by stating that heads/principals in school need to be given a longer time to make their mark on a school, and not be treated like football managers! High turn over of headteachers creates instability and higher workload. Sam thought that teachers were being promoted too soon and promotion was being used as a retention tool with staff that weren’t really ready. She proposed an extended training period for teachers.
Another main thread in conversation was that teachers need autonomy, professional agency to be creative in their own teaching. In many MATs this is not the case, and the panel thought that this could be the next major thing after workload that needed to be targeted.
This was a well attended, informative event (with an excellent buffet!!), and I will certainly be looking out for more events hosted by the Times Ed in the future.