Teachers are at risk of burnout and their morale could “completely drop through the floor” if schools place too much pressure on them to provide catch-up.
That’s the warning from general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union Patrick Roach, who has called for a “sustainable approach” to catch-up or else, he says, the profession could “lose valuable teachers”.
Speaking to Tes ahead of the NASUWT annual conference being held online this weekend, Dr Roach said teachers were not only “double-jobbing” in teaching pupils both in class and remotely, but they were also having to “grapple” with issues such as safe working and the demands of late announcements in relation to qualifications and assessments.
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He said: “How is workload being addressed or are schools assuming that, actually, either that’s not an issue or we’re just going to have to work much harder because pupils have lost out on a year’s education?
Covid catch-up: The risk of teacher burnout
“Well, the reality is that you’ve got to have a sustainable approach otherwise teachers are going to get burned out and morale is going to completely drop through the floor and we’re going to lose valuable teachers from the profession."
Dr Roach added: “It will be of concern to our conference this weekend how some employers appear to have taken the opportunity of the pandemic to assert a form of normal which they believe is in their interest.
"In other words, anything goes – and that you can treat the workforce with contempt and believe that you can get away with it and that we are in a pandemic, you can force through adverse changes to the working conditions of teachers.”
Dr Roach also highlighted the extra demands on senior leadership of Covid test and trace over Easter, as well as summer school provision and providing pupils with access to tutoring support.
He said: “We don't, as a union, subscribe to the language of catch-up – that's the language the government and prime minister have used. We'd rather be talking about 'a recovery programme and plan'.
"We've got to recognise that a short-term fix to what has been a profoundly difficult year for children and young people and their teachers [is not appropriate]. Short-termism is not the approach we want to be taking. It's got to start with urgency, but we've got to be seeing a very clear and coherent plan around how a recovery is to operate".
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to all areas of life, but we have acted swiftly at every turn to help minimise the impact on pupils’ education and provide extensive support for schools and their teachers and staff.
“We have invested over £2 billion into ambitious catch-up plans and schemes to provide pupils with devices for remote education – with funding targeted at disadvantaged children and young people who need support the most.
“Our Wellbeing for Education Return programme is supporting staff in schools and colleges to respond to any wellbeing issues they or their colleagues may be experiencing.”