Scotland's schools face a potential recruitment crisis, with thousands of teachers planning to quit by 2020 as soaring stress levels and increased workload related to curriculum reform take their toll, a leading union has warned.
In the latest job satisfaction survey commissioned by the EIS teaching union, 55 per cent of the 7,000 respondents said they would "definitely" be in the classroom in a year's time. However, just 24 per cent were convinced that they would still be teaching in 2020.
Although the planned retirement of older teachers was a factor in the projected exodus, overwork linked to reforms was the driving force for other staff wanting to leave. The number of teachers aged 25 to 34 who were sure that they would stay in the profession for at least a year was 69 per cent, but only 30 per cent said that they would still be teaching in five years.
Meanwhile, across all age groups the number of teachers who said they would "definitely" quit in 2020 was roughly triple the figure for 2015. Only 3 per cent said they would be gone within 12 months, but 11 per cent said they would definitely leave by 2020.
Union leaders are now sending the report to every council in the country, urging them to take "urgent" action to improve conditions and avert the risk of serious staff shortages in future.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the survey, which also canvassed lecturers, was evidence of the "deep-set impact of workload pressures.largely arising out of the changes to the curriculum". He added that it "painted a worrying picture of a profession under the cosh".
He said: "I think this does potentially indicate a recruitment crisis.Having spent time training up, teachers have to feel that the work-life balance is something they can live with. We used to talk about teachers burning out at the end of their careers. Now some people are burning out quite early on."
Mr Flanagan also warned that although the findings highlighted the impact of stress and excessive workloads on all staff, the effect of routine retirement was also a threat to the future of nursery education. "How will people be mentored for nursery specialisms if nursery teachers are all retiring and not being replaced?" he asked.
In a letter to councils, the union said it hoped that the findings would act as a "catalyst" for action on issues such as the lack of time for professional development.
The survey, published this week, found that 70 per cent of teachers felt they had insufficient time to dedicate to CPD, despite the forthcoming launch of the Professional Update programme in August, which will require all registered teachers to be reaccredited.
It also found that 61 per cent said their stress levels had risen since last year. Just under 50 per cent said they were always stressed, while 75 per cent voiced discontent with workload.
Local authorities body Cosla said that it sympathised with teachers and was engaged in ongoing work to tackle issues. A spokesman said: "Like many other workers these days, teachers experience stress and workload issues and, as employers, we are keen to minimise the impact of this on both our teachers and the young people they teach.
"The EIS survey findings reflect many of the issues we have already discussed.[and we] continue to work with our colleagues in the EIS and other trade unions and the Scottish government to find meaningful and real solutions."
For its part, the Scottish government repeated its commitment to support the "excellent" work in schools across the country by "further improving the education system" through an "unprecedented package of support and resources provided to implement Curriculum for Excellence".
A spokeswoman said: "We take support for teachers very seriously and continue to work with teachers' representatives and local authorities to address any points. These include the workload of those at the front line delivering lasting improvements that will benefit our young people and economy for years to come."
See Larry Flanagan's column, page 12