Teachers' most important source of support at the start of the coronavirus pandemic was communicating with colleagues, a survey of over 2,000 Scottish education staff reveals.
However, over 20 per cent of education staff – including early years professionals, teachers, school support staff and school leaders – said they received no support at all and only 37 per cent of teachers said the education system had been supporting them.
That figure dropped to 34 per cent when it came to the proportion of school leaders who agreed there was sufficient support offered to them by the system.
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The education workforce survey – which involved 2,274 people – was carried out at the start of the pandemic by the Scottish government’s Covid-19 Education Recovery Group workforce support workstream, in a bid to understand what additional professional learning and wellbeing support staff would welcome.
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The results were obtained by Tes Scotland using freedom-of-information legislation.
The analysis of the responses says: “Respondents were asked what forms of available support are proving the most helpful currently. Over half of responses indicated that communication – with either colleagues or leadership – were the most useful. This included virtual team meetings and more informal support, and was similar for school and early years staff. However, over a fifth of respondents indicated that they receive no support at present with early years staff more likely to say so.”
The majority of teachers (63 per cent) said they had the skills, resilience and confidence to support their own wellbeing but that fell to 50 per cent when it came to their ability to support other staff members and 45 per cent when it came to supporting children and young people.
In order to better support children and young people, the respondents said they needed better guidance and CPD.
One respondent said: “Many vulnerable young people have been traumatised by the changes due to the pandemic. It would be reassuring to know that there will be support and guidance for staff offered in schools before students return to school to support them and their families”
Communication with colleagues was highlighted by respondents as being the most important form of support currently available to them, after communication with leadership.
The analysis continued: “School staff (school leaders, teachers and support dtaff) – were more likely than ELC [early learning and childcare] staff to list communication with colleagues (36 per cent) as being the most important current form of support. School staff were also more likely to list specific supports – such as on health and wellbeing, flexible working and digital – as important forms of support.”
When it came to the support that would make the biggest difference to their own wellbeing, teachers prioritised support for “flexible working and workload” (22 per cent) – but across the survey better guidance, particularly around health and safety, was the most commonly mentioned additional support that would be helpful for wellbeing.
One respondent said: “The use of PPE to ensure I was safe from getting the virus, which is a huge stress right now, therefore affecting my own wellbeing.”
Overall, the survey found 50 per cent of school support staff felt supported by the system; 44 per cent of early years professionals; 37 per cent of teachers; and 34 per cent of school leaders.
In September the Scottish government announced a £1.5 million funding package to help manage additional pressures on school staff as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It said Barnardo’s Scotland and mental health charity Place2Be would offer new mental health support for staff after the October break.
One-on-one sessions have also been offered via a scheme that is a joint initiative between Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
However, secondary teachers say a huge amount of additional work lies ahead as a result of the cancellation of exams, including setting assessments, marking them and then quality-assuring grades.
Secondary teachers have also been told they will receive a one-off payment of £400. However, one head writing for Tes Scotland said “whilst an extra payment will be welcome, it will be no substitute for that precious commodity of time” and that school staff are “fearful of the workload which lies ahead”.
Tes Scotland revealed in January that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) had saved almost £20 million as a result of the cancellation of the exams.