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More teachers suffer stress over new curriculum reforms

THE health of teachers is suffering because of the controversial new school curriculum, according to a major survey.

A poll of 7000 teachers found 61 per cent said they were more stressed this year compared to 2013, while 15 per cent described themselves as "extremely stressed".

Just under half said stress affected them all the time and three-quarters said they were unhappy with their workload.

The survey of members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union concluded well-being and satisfaction within the profession was low and stress levels were "very high".

The survey comes at a time when teachers' workload is under scrutiny because of the implementation of the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in primary and secondary schools.

This year has seen the introduction of National 4 and National 5 exams, which have replaced Standard Grades in secondary as part of the reforms.

Previous surveys have shown staff struggling to understand the purpose of the changes and having little time to adapt their teaching techniques.

Many teachers also complained about unacceptable workloads as well as inadequate support from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which developed the new exams.

The report by Edinburgh-based independent marketing company Scott Porter Research concluded: "The main issues to resolve are ... excessive workload and working hours being demanded.

"Linked to this is the very large amount of unnecessary paperwork, number and speed of changes particular to CfE, and issues with management and leadership.

"All in all, it appears teachers and lecturers feel they are climbing a never-ending mountain that makes more and more demands of them, with little prospect of respite."

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said the survey results confirmed the "deep-set impact" of workload pressures on teachers arising from the changes to the curriculum. However, he also highlighted aspects of the survey that found teachers gained most job satisfaction from the progress of their pupils.

He said: "Teaching is a noble profession, but the fact that almost half of the respondents would be reluctant to recommend it as a career speaks volumes for the mood of teachers and lecturers.

"It is no surprise the greatest focus of job satisfaction is the work undertaken with pupils and students because teaching is about relationships.

"Overall, the statistics provide a substantial body of evidence that should be studied by all involved in Scottish education, and which might, we hope, lead to a renewed effort to tackle the issue of excessive workload."

A Scottish Government spokesman 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 frontline delivering lasting improvements that will benefit our young people and economy for years to come.

"There is excellent work being done in schools across the country and we are committed to further improving our education system, as shown by the unprecedented package of support and resources provided to implement CfE."

The survey also found 33 per cent of teachers felt generally satisfied in their working life and 22 per cent described themselves as having a very good balance between work and home life.

Only 16 per cent reported no current work-related stress, while 14 per cent reported lower levels of stress compared to last year.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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