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Teachers get a special lesson in how to look after their voice

No talking at the back! It’s the kind of command most schoolchildren will have heard at some time or other in the classroom.

But for teachers, having to shout to be heard over a whole range of noises can lead to voice-related problems.

So speech and language experts at Neath Port Talbot Hospital set up their own classroom to give teachers a lesson in voice care.

A special hour-long session was held to mark World Voice Day 2018 and follows on from a highly successful workshop for choristers last year.

Around 35 teachers from seven primary schools across Neath Port Talbot took up the invitation to attend.

One of them, Chris Watson from Croeserw Primary School, said it had been extremely useful.

“In all my years of teaching I’ve never had anything like it.

“It’s really good to have something that looks after the wellbeing of teachers’ voices,” he said.

The aim of World Voice Day is to demonstrate the enormous importance of the voice in our daily life.

It’s a global event which has taken place each April since 1998, first in Brazil and then in the USA before spreading internationally.

The Neath Port Talbot Hospital workshop was led by speech and language therapists Gina Rooke and Rebekah Gabbitas.

Rebekah said:

“Most teachers never have any form of voice training but they have to use their voice a lot, often under stress.

“They have to raise their voice over background noise.

“Primary school teachers have to sing and often have to lead a variety of activities which could be assemblies, supervising in the yard, doing PE.

“And all of that can create a lot of vocal strain.”

Research has shown that 50 per cent of newly-qualified teachers suffer voice loss during their first year of teaching.

Voice problems can also affect job performance, work attendance – a third of school heads report that voice problems cause teachers to require time off work – and future career choices.

The workshop comprised a short talk about how the voice works, what problems teachers may experience, how to spot the signs of voice fatigue and general advice on maintaining a healthy voice.

This was followed by top tips for reducing vocal load, practical warm-up exercises and a Q&A session.

Gina said:

“We hope preventative workshops like these may reduce the numbers of teachers developing voice problems and having to take time off work.

“This should reduce the number of teachers requiring an assessment by ENT and the services of speech and language therapy to help them with vocal rehabilitation.

“This is something we hope to do more of in the future.”