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Teachers blame cuts as stress levels soar

SCOTTISH teachers are suffering from record stress levels as a result of council cuts and the introduction of a major new school curriculum, union leaders have warned.

RONNIE SMITH: Decline in teacher numbers has put classroom staff under increasing pressure.
RONNIE SMITH: Decline in teacher numbers has put classroom staff under increasing pressure.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it has recorded the highest level of payouts to teachers and college lecturers suffering from the condition in the past year – with total compensation payments for all cases, including accidents and injuries, topping £650,000.

It included the largest out-of-court payment for a stress case – £250,000.

The statistics were revealed following a year in which figures showed the number of teachers in Scotland has been slashed by 4000 since 2007.

There are also concerns classroom support staff are increasingly being sacrificed as part of budget cuts. Recently, there have been shortages of supply staff in schools after a controversial pay cut.

In the college sector, more than 1000 jobs were lost last year due to cuts, with those lecturers who remain picking up the excess workload.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS, said the figures should act as a warning to councils and colleges.

He said: "Teachers across Scotland are facing increasing pressure due to rising workload brought about by the budget-cutting agenda. Teaching staff are being expected to do more and more, while working with fewer resources and less support.

"The decline in teacher numbers over the past few years has led to larger class sizes and greater workload demands on teaching staff.

"At the same time, reductions in the number of support staff have heaped additional work on to teachers, requiring them to carry out additional administrative duties."

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, believes additional problems are being caused by the introduction of the new school curriculum – the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

She added: "The big issue with CfE is teachers are developing new materials in their own time, as well as everything else they have to do, such as marking and preparation.

"That can place a significant burden on them, which can lead to stress."

However, John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said all local authorities cared for their employees.

He said: "All councils in Scotland operate well-developed policies and procedures to ensure the health and safety of their employees, to manage absence and to exercise their duty of care and welfare towards workers.

"It is in everyone's interests to address issues of work-related stress as the costs of not doing so are very significant.

"These are responsibilities that are generally taken seriously by employers, but clearly these figures are a wake-up call for everyone to continually monitor, review and update the position in their own workplace."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We expect councils to take appropriate action at a local level to minimise the risk of stress or injury and any related claims through their own local health and safety procedures for staff and pupils."

A number of EIS members also received compensation after being assaulted by pupils.

The union said one member received £1000 after being kicked and punched on the side of the head during a football class.

Another person was paid £1500 after being repeatedly hit with a metre ruler, suffering cuts to the head and bruising to the arms.

However, the main cause of injuries to teachers was accidents involving falls caused by slips and trips. Such cases resulted in a number of compensation payments, including £12,000 paid to someone who slipped on a wet floor and injured their leg and foot.

The latest figures come days after the EIS called for the scrapping of a deal that cut pay for Scottish supply teachers.

The union urged the Government and council body Cosla to look again at the deal, introduced in a bid to save £45 million. Headteachers claim many schools cannot secure cover when teachers are off sick and there have been claims secondary school classes are no longer being taught by subject specialists.

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