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Stress Management

Llangyfelach Primary School recognises and accepts its duties and responsibilities with regard to the health, safety and welfare of all its employees.

 

The aim of this policy is to reduce the risk of work-induced stress to a minimum, or if possible, to negate it completely.

 

To achieve the objectives of this policy, the school will:-

  • identify those areas of work/circumstances where an unreasonable level of risk exists by carrying out work reviews and implement measures to minimise potential risks;

  • such reviews should be performed as a normal part of the day to day management of the School;

  • give appropriate training/information to employees who could be vulnerable to stress;

  • provide support, counselling and advice to employees who are exposed to stress in situations in work;

  • maintain an appropriate reporting and recording procedure.

 

This policy deals with work-induced stress no matter how it is caused and is intended as a framework document which individual schools can supplement with their own procedures and guidelines reflecting the principles of this policy and the individual needs of the school concerned.

 

Stress is not an inevitable result of work.   Staff suffering from stress are not weak or to blame.   It is, in fact, the second most common cause of absenteeism from work, and accounts for 10% of work-related absences.   Nationally, 90 million working days are lost to stress at a cost of £1.3 billion.

 

Defining Stress

Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them.   It arises when they worry that they are unable to cope.

 

Stress can involve:-

  • Physical effects:  raised heart rate, increased sweating, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, aching neck and shoulders, skin rashes and a lowering of resistance to infection.

  • Behavioural effects:  increased anxiety and irritability, tendencies to drink alcohol and smoke more, sleeping difficulties, poor concentration, and an inability to deal calmly with everyday tasks and situations.

  • Usually, stress effects are short-lived and cause no lasting harm.   When the pressures recede, there is a quick return to normal.   Stress is not therefore the same as ill-health, but in some cases, particularly where pressures are intense and continue for some time, the effects can be more sustained and far more damaging, leading to longer-term psychological problems and physical ill-health.

 

Stress Factors

There is no simple way of predicting what will cause harmful levels of stress.   People respond to different types of pressure in different ways.   An exciting challenge to one person may be a daunting task to another.   A repetitive job might be viewed by some as boring and monotonous, but others may prefer the routine.   Much depends on people’s own personalities, experience and motivation, as well as the support available from managers, colleagues, family and friends.

 

In general, harmful levels of stress are most likely to occur where:-

  • pressures pile on top of each other, or are prolonged;

  • staff feel trapped and unable to exert control over conflicting demands placed on them, especially true of junior staff.

 

Much will also depend on the pressures which people are experiencing outside work in their personal lives, e.g. bereavement, family illness, marital and housing problems etc.   Although these factors are beyond employers’ responsibilities, they impact on employees at work affecting performance and judgement and making them more vulnerable to stress factors in work.

 

Work-induced stress can therefore be broken down into three distinct, but related categories:

  • Stress arising directly from the nature of the job.

  • Stress arising from personal interactions around the job.

  • Stress arising from the nature of the job, aggravated by temporary changes in personal circumstance.

  • A “suitable and sufficient” review will need to consider stress in these three contexts.

 

Workplace Reviews

There is no specific legislation on controlling stress at work.   However, every employer and employee has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workplaces are safe and healthy - Health and Safety at Work etc., Act, 1974.

 

In addition, every employer has a duty to undertake a systematic assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees whilst at work - Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1992.

 

Work-induced stress is no different in this respect that any other workplace hazard.   This means that employers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that employees’ health is not placed at risk through excessive and sustained levels of stress arising from the way that work is organised, the way that staff deal with each other within work, or from the day-to-day demands placed upon them.

 

Therefore, stress needs to be borne in mind, when assessments of possible health hazards in the work place are carried out and all reasonable steps taken to offset any such risks identified.   Any preventative or protective measures subsequently introduced will then need to be periodically reviewed for effectiveness.

 

In general, stress in work is likely to arise when:-

  • schedules are inflexible and over-demanding;

  • there is prolonged conflict between individuals, including possibly sexual or racial harassment and bullying, (staff perpetrating such acts will be dealt with under the procedures laid out in the Schools Harassment Policy), or when staff are treated with contempt or indifference;

  • external pressures such as levels of external funding;

  • there is a lack of understanding and leadership from managers or supervisors;

  • staff feel a high degree of uncertainty about their work, their objectives or career prospects.

 

Bearing these general principles in mind, the Headteacher with his/her Senior Management Team will need to assess:-

  • those types of job where risk of stress is more likely than others;

  • those areas of work where conflict is being generated;

  • those staff who may, by change of circumstances, (not necessarily temporarily) be placed at risk.

 

Consultation with relevant staff will complete the work review process followed by introduction of appropriate control measures, which may be generic, if applicable to all staff within a job or section, and of a permanent nature, or be personal if applicable to an individual and of a temporary nature.

 

Planning to Avoid Stress

 

Recognising the Symptoms

  • Sickness absence - increase in overall rates, typified by frequent short periods of absence.

  • Work relationships - tension and conflict between colleagues, poor relationships with clients, increase in disciplinary or industrial relation problems.

  • Unexpected difficulties with training or examinations.

  • Work performance - reduction in output and productivity, increase in wastage and error rates, poor decision-making, deterioration in planning and work control.

  • Staff attitude and behaviour - loss of motivation and commitment, erratic and poor timekeeping, staff working increasingly long hours but for diminishing returns.

 

Causes of Stress in the Education Sector

People’s experience of stress at work is affected by:-

  • the level of control they have over the pressures of work;

  • the support they receive from others in meeting those pressures;

  • the strategies they use to respond to work pressures, some of which will help more than others.

 

Causes of stress for individuals or groups of staff may vary, but researchers have identified a number of work-related factors, any combination of which may result in feelings of stress.   These include:-

 

Teachers’ relationships with students

  • Inappropriate student/teacher ratios.

  • Actual or potential violence.

  • Teaching disruptive pupils.

  • Uncertainties about limits of discipline.

  • Poor student motivation.

 

Teachers’ relationships with colleagues

  • Lack of communication.

  • Personality conflicts.

  • Unfair distribution of work

 

Management Issues

  • Poorly managed change.

  • Not being involved in the decision making process.

  • Change in management style.

  • Lack of leadership.

  • Prolonged conflict, including bullying.

  • Lack of support from managers.

  • Too many after school meetings.

  • Work overload, filling in for absent colleagues, teaching unfamiliar subjects.

  • Career development difficulties.

  • Over/under promotion.

  • Failure to recognise that different people adapt to change at different rates.

  • Management failure to acknowledge long hours of work at home.

  • Poor working conditions.

 

Societal Issues

  • Poor perceived status.

  • Role ambiguity, uncertainty about limits of authority vested in job.

  • Changing societal expectations and concern about roles of school.

  • Dealing with anxious, aggrieved or aggressive parents and students.

 

Personal Perspective

  • Unrealistic expectations.

  • Sense of injustice/bitterness.

  • Unadequate training or experience.

 

The School’s Response

Whilst there is no single way of preventing harmful levels of work-related stress, a general ‘good management’ approach with due regard for staff, can be as effective as any other means of reducing stress levels, particularly where stress arises from personal interactions around the job or where personal factors impact from outside.

 

However, whatever the approach, or the control measures introduced, Headteachers/Managers will need to demonstrate that the problem is being addressed and taken seriously.

 

"Excessive stress where it occurs within a school, cannot be seen as a problem of the individual but as a problem for the school which can and must be tackled.   Failure to do so, will render the LEA/School open to claims of breach of its duty of care to employees".

[Walker vs. Northumberland County Council, 1994].

 

The following guiding principles can be adopted, which if followed, will help eliminate the incidence of stress.   In many instances, these practices already underpin existing school policies and/or are central to training courses provided for management development:

  • Matching the job to the person - recruitment procedures should ensure that the abilities and the motivation of the employee fit the profile of the job and not the other way round.

  • Encouraging all senior staff to set achievable and clear goals - thus enabling staff to perform with confidence to meet agreed objectives.

  • Encouraging senior members of staff to display a clear, consistent management style - staff can accommodate most styles of management but not inconsistency, indifference or bullying.

  • Encouraging senior staff to develop good two-way communication - this can eliminate uncertainty during periods of change.

  • Increasing involvement of staff in decision-making, thereby improving the individual’s control over work demands.

 

Furthermore, senior staff should be encouraged to develop flexibility in their approach to staff problems within agreed parameters.   These may include varying work patterns to cope with temporary domestic problems, operating an open-door attitude to staff giving them the opportunity to discuss work-generated problems on an informal basis, listening to what staff have to say, and ensuring continued in-service staff development of skills.

 

The Manager’s Response

It is not appropriate to lay down control measures which are suitable for all situations where assessments have identified areas of risk, but typical measures that managers can introduce will include:-

  • limiting staff exposure to the stress source, (including planning work in such a way that it is periodically interrupted by breaks or changes in activity);

  • changes in specific job role/content.

  • The effectiveness of such controls can then be judged by monitoring the levels of:-

    • Sickness and absence.

    • Work performance/productivity.

    • Industrial relation problems.

    • Staff turnover.

 

Individual Response

All members of staff have a part to play in dealing with stress in the workplace.  Whilst it is acknowledged that the Management of the School have an important role to play, each individual staff member should contribute.  Those experiencing stress can assist the process by entering into early two way dialogue and by taking reasonable action in order to resolve the problems identified.

 

Support and Counselling

The school has access, via. the LEA, to Stress Management courses designed to enable senior members of staff to recognise the signs of stress amongst their employees and to enable staff to develop their own skills in preventing the development of high stress levels.   (General individual guidance on “Coping with Stress” is also included as Appendix 1 for those members of staff who may be experiencing high levels of stress in domestic situations).

 

In addition, an independent stress counselling service is also available.   Staff experiencing high stress levels can access this service in strict confidentiality via. the Education Departmental Personnel and Training Manager.

 

Other organisations such as the Teacher Support Network via. the TBF are also available as a source of professional support (Telephone Helpline No: 020 7554 5222).

 

Statutory Standards

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 (Section 2).

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1992 Regulations 3 & 4.

  • Duty of Care under common law and Unfair Contract Terms Act, 1977.

  • Disability Discrimination Act, 1995.

 

This policy will be reviewed when necessary.

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