Big increase in teachers signed off with stress

Union leaders warn that the Covid pandemic has 'exacerbated' the pressure on school staff

Tes Reporter

Teacher mental health: There has been a big increase in staff signed off with stress, new figures show

The number of teachers signed off with stress has increased by more than a quarter in recent years, according to figures released today.

Freedom of information (FOI) responses from 24 of Scotland's 32 local authorities show that 2,284 people were affected in 2019-20, up 26 per cent on the 2016-17 total of 1,808, The Herald has reported.

The Scottish government and Education Scotland emphasised that  £1.5 million had been invested in schemes to boost mental health and help manage Covid-related pressures.

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But the Scottish Conservatives, who obtained the data, said that teachers were “feeling overworked and under-appreciated”.

They added that not every council had responded to the FOI request, meaning the overall total is likely to be even higher.

Covid and schools: Fears for teachers' mental health

Union leaders said the Covid pandemic had probably “exacerbated” the pressure on staff.

EIS teaching union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The rising trend in these figures is not surprising as it matches the findings of recent EIS health and wellbeing surveys that show more and more teachers are suffering from increased stress arising from excessive workload, leading to a poor work-life balance, alongside a lack of support in addressing additional support needs for students.

“The last year of coping with the impact of the pandemic is likely to have exacerbated the pressures. It is critical, therefore, that as we look to education recovery, support must be put in place around nurturing teacher wellbeing as a prerequisite for doing the same for pupils.”

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), said: “Working from home was in many ways more stressful for teachers, as it was taking them twice as long to complete certain tasks.

“Now they’re all back [but] the issues that were there previously are coming to the fore again and we’re already hearing from members that what they are being asked to deliver for the SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] under alternative certification is unmanageable.”

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Jamie Greene said: “It is hugely concerning to see thousands of teachers getting signed off every year. With the lack of support from SNP ministers, they are feeling overworked and under-appreciated.

"The more teachers that have to be signed off only adds to the pressure for our schools.

"The Scottish Conservatives will recruit 3,000 additional teachers for our classrooms and ensure they are the ones making the decisions that are best for their school’s needs."

The Scottish government and Education Scotland said that a £1.5 million funding package, which includes mental health support from Barnardo’s Scotland and the charity Place2Be, had been put together.

Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) are also providing new professional learning opportunities for post-probation staff and have developed a coaching and mentoring offer.

An SNP spokesperson said: “We recognise the stress teachers have been under to deliver learning throughout the pandemic and we have taken steps to reduce the workload of teachers by simplifying the curriculum and removing unnecessary paperwork.

“The government has also undertaken a recruitment drive by hiring 1,400 over the pandemic. Our manifesto has committed £1 billion to closing the attainment gap and recruiting another 3,500 teachers.” 

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