A TEACHERS’ union has launched a campaign to reduce work-related stress, amid fears members in a North-East town are among the most stressed in the country.

The Darlington branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has started the campaign in response to a Department for Education (DfE) survey, which showed that primary and secondary teachers regularly clock up more than 55 hours’ work a week.

This is in breach of a European Union directive which stipulates that no one should have to work more than 48 hours per week.

Diaries kept by 1,000 primary, secondary and academy school teachers showed that they worked an average of 57-hour week, the national survey said.

These figures were confirmed by the NUT’s Darlington own survey.

It found that 98 per cent of respondents continue with their work when they get home in the evening, and 89 per cent are experiencing the highest category of stress.

Darlington NUT is calling on headteachers to take urgent action to reduce the levels of stress experienced by teachers in Darlington.

Primary school teacher and Darlington NUT representative Hazel Commane said: “The Darlington NUT website regularly receives reports from teachers who are experiencing anxiety, stress and depression from having tasks routinely added to their day-to-day job.

“I have heard of some teachers leaving work in tears, working 70 hour weeks and being forced to consider early retirement through ill-health.

“It’s clear from these findings that our local schools are plagued with stressful working conditions."

Darlington NUT has launched a campaign to have stress audits conducted in local workplaces, a move backed by the union’s northern regional secretary, Mike McDonald.

He said: “We do not want stressed-out, overworked teachers in classrooms.

“You cannot turn on the news or pick up a paper without somebody criticising teachers, it is always this undermining of the profession and people feeling they know better.”

Mr Brown said newly-qualified teachers often feel so stressed that they leave the profession within five years of completing their training.

Darlington NUT is advising teachers who think they are experiencing symptoms of stress to keep a written record of specific incidents and to ensure that they seek and follow medical advice where appropriate.