The Scottish education system is “on the verge of a crisis”, the new president of a Scottish teaching union has warned.
Speaking at the NASUWT Scotland’s virtual annual conference, Kirkcaldy primary school teacher Bernadette Easton said that teachers feel “demoralised, unsupported and unrecognised”.
The cumulative impact of the pandemic on top of pre-existing pressures of excessive workload, assessment requirements and the failure to equip schools with the resources and support they need to meet the needs of all pupils were among the concerns raised.
‘Teachers have gone the extra mile’
Ms Easton also warned there had been a rise in stress and mental ill-health among teachers in the last year.
She said: “Teachers have gone the extra mile to facilitate remote learning for all young people and this has not been without its challenges.
“The pressure on every professional speed learning how to use Teams, how to innovate with digital technology, how to deliver an effective level of education.
“There was an expectation of near normal education, in a situation which was anything but normal. It is no wonder there has been an increase in mental health issues by teachers.”
Ms Easton said teachers have been left vulnerable due to a lack of safety mitigations in some schools and the pressures of trying to juggle remote teaching with in-person teaching.
She said: “The workload involved in trying to support pupils back in to the classroom, the unpaid hours given to meet deadlines and prepare for variable platforms of learning have placed the profession under tremendous strain.
“Teachers have been undertaking live lessons, often on their own devices, worrying about having to teach from their home, concerned about how they were judged and perceived on these new platforms by pupils, parents and senior management.
“The government certainly needs to look at teacher workload again.”
“We need an education system which is prepared”
She called upon the Scottish Government and employers to equip, prepare and support teachers for the ongoing impact of Covid and ensure teachers are “not lighting a candle in the dark and trying to find a way out”.
Ms Easton added: “We need an education system which is prepared – prepared for the challenging effects of Covid on children, prepared to bridge the digital divide in ensuring all children can access remote learning, and prepared in case there is another wave.
It is no wonder there has been an increase in mental health issues by teachers.”
Bernadette Easton, president of NASUWT Scotland.
“We must ensure everything is in place so we are not lighting a candle in the dark and trying to find a way out.
“There must be consistency and a uniform approach to remote learning moving forward. And, there must be greater focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of teachers, making sure they can feel safe and are not overloaded.”
The Scottish Government has previously pledged more than £200 million in funding for local authorities to help provide support to schools and families during the pandemic.
A government spokesperson said: “In the last year, teaching and non-teaching staff in our schools and early learning and childcare settings have performed extraordinarily under challenging circumstances.
“They have refocussed their work to support pupils in a range of imaginative, creative and stimulating ways.
“This government will put the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the forefront of our Covid recovery plans.
“We look forward to working constructively stakeholders to ensure we nurture an environment that has at its core the highest quality of learning and teaching.”