A survey published today by the University and College Union has found the stress levels of further education staff exceed the averages for British workers on several key measures.

The report used the methodology of a survey devised by the Health and Safety Executive, which analyses stress amongst the general population. The findings of Tackling stress in Further Education showed further education workers felt more stressed in all areas in comparison to the national population. These areas included: how change was handled at work; their understanding of their role at work; and the demands made upon them.

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary, said: "Our members in further education have worked in an environment of continual change where there is barely time to consolidate one new policy before the next comes along. This survey clearly shows this is the root cause of a great deal of stress.

"The economic downturn looks set to herald more change as further education will be at the heart of responses to increasing levels of unemployment. UCU members will need to be more flexible and committed than ever. This survey suggests some practical and simple solutions which would greatly improve working lives and so help FE rise to the challenge of recession. We call on those in charge to act on its findings."

These suggestions included improving the physical environment, increasing autonomy, reducing paperwork and monitoring, more flexible working and better management of change.

A separate report, Tackling Stress in Prison Education, revealed even higher levels of stress than FE workers for all seven key areas, compared to the national averages. This time, areas with the biggest discrepancies included: how change was handled at work; managerial support; and relationships at work.

Of those teaching in prisons, 82.8 per cent reported 'always', often' or 'always' experiencing levels of stress at work that they deemed unacceptable. Four-fifths 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' with the statement: "I find my job stressful". Almost 62.1 per cent also reported 'high' or 'very high' general levels of stress.

Ms Hunt added: "Our members working in prisons are right at the bottom of the pile yet they do a vital job to keep society safe by reducing reoffending. It is no surprise that they cite the management of change as a major source of stress: constant retendering of prison education contracts has meant as many as five changes of management in the past 15 years for some of our members. Prison educators desperately need stability."

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