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UK: Union leader quits through stress

A former president of EI affiliate the National Union of Teachers broke down in tears yesterday as he revealed how stress and "government bullying" had forced him to quit the teaching profession.

In a speech to the NUT’s annual conference, John Illingworth, a primary school head for 13 years, said serious mental health problems caused by stress had "changed my life". Mr Illingworth, head of a school in Nottingham, UK, was speaking as the union voted for industrial action to reduce teachers' workload. He told the conference: "This workload motion is too late for me. I'm removing the stress by leaving teaching. I think I've been a good head and a good teacher, but my health comes first." Mr Illingworth, who has been a headteacher of three schools, said he had tried to run his school in a way that was consistent with the principles of the union. "I have always felt bullied by government. I have been affected by serious mental health problems," he said. Reporting to hospital for one of several check-ups, he was told by doctors that teachers and school staff now formed the majority of their patients. Mr Illingworth, 55, was president of the NUT in 2001 and had planned to stand for the general secretaryship of the union two and a half years ago. He withdrew because of stress, although he kept the reason secret at the time. Judy Moorhouse, current president of the NUT, said: “It is appalling that it has to take somebody standing in front of this conference in order to get some understanding by the world outside of what is going on in school after school." Delegates to the conference in Torquay warned that many teachers were still working more than 50 hours a week, despite an agreement with the Government that they were entitled to 10 per cent of their school day off from the classroom, to concentrate on marking and teaching preparation. Delegates at the conference voted to urge the union's executive to consider industrial action to secure more funds from the Government to finance the agreement.