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Handbook of Stress in the Occupations

Edited by Janice Langan-Fox and Cary Cooper

The Handbook of Stress in the Occupations sets a new agenda for stress research and gives fresh impetus to scholars who wish to focus on issues and problems associated with specific jobs, some of which have received little attention in the past.
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Chapter 10: Stress in Head Teachers

Samantha Phillips and Dil Sen


Samantha Phillips and Dil Sen BACKGROUND A most distressing case of suicide occurred recently at Woolwich. The headmaster of the Woolwich-Common Military College shot himself on Saturday last. His brother gave evidence to the effect that the deceased had often complained that the work was killing him, saying that the trouble of teaching did not affect him so much as the worry of management. The case gives rise to serious considerations. Every now and then we hear of a teacher, elementary or otherwise, committing suicide while suffering from temporary insanity. What is not so evident to the general public is the distressing state of mind in which a very large number carry on their work. . . .The absurd anxiety to gain high percentages and outvie the other schools in their neighbourhood is the fruitful parent of many of the evils under which teachers groan. Overwork benefits neither teacher or pupil in the long run, however satisfactory must be the immediate results. (The Schoolmaster, 6 December 1879; reprinted in Dunham & Varma, 1998) Stress in head teachers is, therefore, not a modern-day phenomenon, and the ultimate price that individuals might have to pay means that this is an occupation that we cannot ignore when considering any associated ill health, mental or physical, caused by or made worse by work. It has been known and written about for many years. Factors often linked with the increasing burden relate, in part, to the changes to the education system and the changing role of the teacher...

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