Covid Scotland: Union claims teachers are facing a 'rising tide of workload' throughout the pandemic

Almost nine in 10 teachers say their workload has increased during the pandemic, according to a survey by the largest teachers union in Scotland.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) poll also found 61 per cent of teachers reported workload levels have increased “significantly” during the period.

Many members highlighted that moving to remote or blended learning added a considerable amount of work as everything had to be made accessible online while schools were closed, or when pupils were absent.

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More than six in 10 (61 per cent) said meeting the additional support needs of pupils, including mental health support, has significantly added to their workload in the past 12 months.

Teachers say the pandemic has led to workload increasing

The survey of more than 16,000 teachers found the vast majority (93 per cent) work above their contracted hours each week, with almost half (45 per cent) of full-time staff reporting they work more than eight extra hours every week.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Teachers have continued to face a rising tide of workload throughout the pandemic, for a wide range of reasons.

“Clearly, changes brought about in response to the pandemic have had an impact on teacher workload with additional tasks requiring to be undertaken on a daily basis to help keep classrooms safe.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan is concerned the toll of overtime is having on members.

“The increased emphasis on digital learning – be that in the classroom or remotely from home – has created challenges for teachers, often associated with a lack of suitable equipment and resources.

“Teachers are also reporting a significant amount of time dealing with pupil behaviour as many young people continue the struggle to overcome the negative impact of the pandemic on their lives.”

The online survey, conducted by EIS in November, found that 88% of teachers said their workload burden has increased during the pandemic.

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Members highlighted that sanitising workspaces and ensuring all Covid mitigations are followed often disrupts lessons and adds to their workload, while some noted contact from parents had increased, creating more pressure.

Among secondary school teachers, members reported the Alternative Certification Model – brought in when exams were cancelled due to the pandemic – significantly increased their workload in comparison with a normal year.

More than nine in 10 (93 per cent) respondents noted an increase in their workload, with 80 per cent describing the increase as significant.

Mr Flanagan said: “In addition to the challenges of keeping up to date with Government Covid safety protocols, which affect all teachers, teachers in secondary schools face additional difficulties with Scottish Qualifications Authority-related workload.

“The challenges brought about by short-notice changes to the qualifications system have been a major driver in additional workload over the past two years for secondary teachers.

“Meaningful reform of the examinations system is now required to ease the workload burden of teachers and students alike.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Teachers have been outstanding throughout the pandemic and we can’t thank them enough.

“We are committed to reducing teachers’ class contact time by 90 minutes per week to give them more time to plan and ease their workload.

“We have provided £240 million of additional investment since the start of the pandemic, specifically for the recruitment of more education staff.”

He said figures published in December show that teacher numbers have increased for the sixth year in a row, rising to 54,285 in 2021, adding: “The ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2009.”

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