Scotland’s teachers face “extremely poor” working conditions that could cause a “huge exodus” of staff, according to research carried out by academics at Bath Spa University.
The independent study, which is being presented at a conference today, found that over 40 per cent of teachers are considering leaving their post within the next 15-19 months, amid increasing stress and falling job satisfaction caused by excessive workload.
Report co-author Dr Jermaine Ravalier, who is co-lead of the Psychological Research Group at Bath Spa University, said it was “clear that teachers…find the nature of their jobs deeply fulfilling” but added that it was “no longer enough to outweigh the impact that governmental cuts are having on their jobs”.
Dr Ravalier, who also looked at social workers’ working conditions, added: “If only half of those who said they’d leave actually do so in the next 18 months, our public services are about to be hit with a huge exodus of staff.”
This would be “hugely expensive” and have “massive impacts on our next generation”, he said, adding: “The role played by teachers and social workers is vital for the whole of society, so the findings of this work should be a catalyst for greater investment in our public services.”
Dr Ravalier has also looked at conditions faced by teachers in England. They report greater job demands, poorer relationships quality and higher perceived stress levels. However, Scottish teachers report significantly higher levels of organisational change.
Demands on teachers
The EIS teaching union helped share the researchers’ survey – which attracted nearly 5,000 responses – and general secretary Larry Flanagan said that the number of teachers thinking about leaving their job in the next 18 months “clearly highlights the need for urgent action to make teaching a more attractive profession, with better working conditions, to ensure that we can continue to attract and retain highly-qualified graduates into teaching”.
He added: “This must include reducing the bureaucratic and workload demands on teachers, ensuring that schools are fully staffed and significant improvements in levels of pay following a decade of real-terms cuts to teachers’ salaries.”
This week Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed that she would remove the country’s 1 per cent pay cap for public-sector workers, including teachers.
In outlining her government’s programme for the next year, she also promised an Education Bill that “will deliver the most radical change to how our schools are run” since Scottish devolution in 1999, with headteachers receiving “significant” new powers. Critics, however, have said there should be more focus on teacher recruitment, retention and working conditions.
Scotland has tried various schemes in recent years to address shortages of teachers, with varying degress of success.
Dr Ravalier is presenting the findings today at the British Science Festival in Brighton, an event organised by the British Science Association and co-hosted by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex.