HOW many times does it need to be said? There is a serious teaching crisis in Scotland’s schools. Not only is there a shortage of staff at all levels, the status of the job, salaries and the work/life balance have all been eroded and undermined, with profound consequences for the teachers, the pupils and the country as a whole.

So is it any wonder that, against such a backdrop, members of the Educational Institute of Scotland union, weighed down by stress and work, have supported a cut to the time they spend in the classroom? The current weekly maximum is 22.5 hours of class contact time, but, after a vote at their annual general meeting, the EIS union will now campaign for this to be cut to 20.

Obviously, there should be no such cut without considering the consequences for pupils, but it you want to know just how bad the problem has become, ask a teacher. The evidence on workload has also been mounting for a long time. Last year, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found Scotland’s teachers spent a higher percentage of time in the classroom than most other countries.

More recently, Holyrood’s education committee was warned some schools are having to teach pupils National 4, National 5 and Higher qualifications in the same class because of teacher shortages. And only last week an EIS survey found a majority of teachers are working at least an extra eight hours a week over the 35 hours maximum.

Part of the explanation for this increase in workload has been the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence, but the crisis has deepened because of the failure to recruit and retain enough teachers. On the issue of recruitment, we know many young people are keen to join the profession and yet some are very quickly concluding it is not for them, often because they are thrown in the deep end to cover staff shortages. Retention of teachers at the other end of the profession is just as problematic, with many in their 30s and 40s leaving to do something else.

The answer, obviously, is to fill the hundreds of vacancies that exist across Scotland, but that will not be successful without offering much more support to new teachers to ensure they stay. Every teacher that leaves the profession should also be interviewed in detail to determine what the problems, and possible solutions, are.

The good news is that the Scottish Government finally acknowledged this year that pay was a problem when they agreed a 13 per cent increase over three years for teachers. This will help. But the government must now acknowledge that a similar serious problem exists on workload. Step one will be to determine the precise scale of the problem; step two will be to promise to recruit the teachers needed to fix it.

Everyone wins

THERE is still, even now, a certain type of football fan that thinks the women’s game isn’t up to much. But attitudes are changing fast – it’s just that some football fans are not keeping up.

The performance of the Scotland women’s national team is a case in point. Last week, a record crowd of 18,555 turned up at Hampden to watch their friendly against Jamaica before they head to the World Cup – a moment which coach Shelly Kerr said she thought would never come. But Kerr is currently leading the most successful senior national football team for more than 20 years – just one of the reasons she deserves her MBE.

The team is also proof success follows visibility – the higher the profile the game has had, the more girls and women have got involved. In fact, the number of women and girls playing football in Scotland has doubled in five years and there is no reason why that can’t continue.

The current stars of the women’s game are on the pitch. But the future stars are among the thousands of women who will be cheering on Kerr’s side in France.