Staffing cri­sis fears as teach­ers miss more days due to stress

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By TOM PETERKIN

The num­ber of days taken off work by teach­ers due to stress has in­creased over the past three years, lead­ing to more claims of a staffing cri­sis in Scot­land’s class­rooms.

Ac­cord­ing to data un­cov­ered by Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion (FOI) leg­is­la­tion, a to­tal of 237,294 work days were lost be­tween 2015/16 and 2017/18 as a re­sult of stress.

In 2015/16, a to­tal of 77,779 days were lost to stress – a fig­ure that rose to 79,001 in 2016/17 and to 80,513 in 2017/18. Over­all there was a 3.5 per cent rise in days lost over the three­year pe­riod.

Teach­ing unions claimed one Scot­tish school was con­sid­er­ing go­ing down to a four­day week be­cause of staff short­ages.

Scot­tish Labour, which re­trieved the fig­ures through FOI, said fall­ing teacher num­bers and de­clin­ing school bud­gets were to blame for in­creased pres­sure on teach­ers. Scot­tish Labour ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Iain Gray said: “Since 2007, the num­ber of teach­ers has fallen by more than 3,500 un­der the SNP whilst school bud­gets have been slashed by £400 mil­lion, heap­ing pres­sure on the teach­ing pro­fes­sion.”

Sea­mus Sear­son, from the Scot­tish Sec­ondary Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, said “Our mem­bers are say­ing to us the work­load is killing them. Teach­ers are al­ready work­ing up to the max­i­mum [work­ing] week, cov­er­ing the gaps.”

Mr Sear­son said he knew of one Scot­tish school that was 15 teach­ers short and the staffing short­age was so bad it was con­sid­er­ing go­ing down to a four-day week. Larry Flana­gan of the EIS said: “It is of lit­tle sur­prise that in­ci­dences of stress-re­lated ill-health amongst teach­ers have been in­creas­ing. Ex­ces­sive work­load con­tin­ues to grow, sup­port for pupils with ad­di­tional sup­port needs has been re­duc­ing, and new de­mands are be­ing placed on teach­ers all the time. All this whilst liv­ing stan­dards have been at­tacked by a 24 per cent real-terms pay re­duc­tion over the past decade.”

Teach­ing unions are in a dis­pute with the Scot­tish Govern­ment over pay. Min­is­ters re­jected a claim for a 10 per cent rise, which unions say is needed to make up for a decade of wage stag­na­tion and ris­ing liv­ing costs.

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokes­woman said: “We have taken ac­tion to re­duce teacher work­load, clar­i­fy­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing the cur­ricu­lum frame­work and re­mov­ing un­nec­es­sary bu­reau­cracy. We have also taken ac­tion to re­cruit more teach­ers, in­vest­ing £88m in 2017, re­sult­ing in 543 more teach­ers than the pre­vi­ous year.”

tom.peterkin@scots­man.com

Teach­ers are say­ing the work­load is killing them, ac­cord­ing to unions

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