Staffing crisis fears as Scottish teachers miss more days due to stress

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.

Over 230,000 work days were lost between 2015/16 and 2017/18 as a result of stress. Picture: TSPL

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 three-year period.

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Teaching unions claimed one Scottish school was considering going down to a four-day 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.”