MORE than 19,000 school days were lost in the past three years due to Gwent teachers being off for sick with work-related stress.

Atotal of 19,126.5 days were taken by 745 teachers across four Gwent authorities averaging 25 days per teacher.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Torfaen had the highest number of teachers off sick due to work-related stress resulting in a total 10,172 lost days since 2009.

In that year 217 teachers took a total 3,665.5 days off, compared with 141 who took 2,747.5 days in 2010/11, and 195 who recorded a total 3,755 days absence in 2011/12.

Newport recorded a total 4,731 lost days from 176 teachers over the three years. Of these, 126 teachers took less than 30 days off over the three years, while ten members of staff took more than three months off.

In Caerphilly 53 teachers were absent for a total of 1,904.5 days over the three years, while in Monmouthshire 53 teachers missed a combined 2,319 days over the same period.

Blaenau Gwent council failed to respond to the Argus’ request for information.

Tim Cox, of teaching union NASUWT, said teachers were under too much pressure, often working 50-plus hours a week. He said The Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ) recently found teachers in the UK were the most stressed in Europe.

He believes this is down to the rigid teaching framework they have to abide by here, compared with other countries where teachers are allowed to develop their own techniques.

He said that while councils had occupational therapists and councillors available to help teachers, these tackled the symptoms and did not address the cause.

He said: “This shows a lack of support from some senior staff in school to the classroom teachers. It [teaching] is a very stressful job – one of the most stressful and, if the support is not right and pupil behaviour isn’t right, that can exacerbate it.”

He said the union was about to publish its own stress policy based on examples of best practice gathered from local authorities around the UK.