Teachers’ mental health struggles extremely worrying, John Swinney admits

The number of teachers suffering with their mental health is “extremely worrying”, the Education Secretary has said.

A survey by teachers’ union NASUWT found 64% of Scotland’s teachers said their mental health has suffered because of their work in the last year.

More than three-quarters of teachers also said workplace stress has increased over the last 12 months.

First Minister’s Questions
Education Secretary John Swinney said action is already being taken (Jane Barlow/PA)

Questioned about the survey’s findings in the Scottish Parliament, Education Secretary John Swinney said: “No teacher should feel like their job adversely affects their mental health.

“Well-being, both mental and physical, affects us all and should be rightly taken seriously.

“These survey findings are therefore extremely worrying.

“Local authorities as employers have a duty of care for all of their staff, including teachers.

“The Scottish Government, along with local authorities, is already taking action to address conditions that affect well-being by putting in additional support for teachers to tackle workload issues and improve recruitment and retention rates.”

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale told Mr Swinney the survey “is full of grim statistics for the Government”, including 54% of teachers saying job satisfaction is in decline and 55% who have considered leaving the profession.

According to the research, 75% of teachers have been affected by anxiety in the last 12 months because of their job, with 83% suffering sleeping problems.

Just over a fifth (21%) said they are drinking more alcohol, almost one in 10 (9%) has seen their relationship break down and 2% have self-harmed.

Responding to Ms Dugdale, Mr Swinney argued the Scottish Government was “tackling unnecessary tasks and work that teachers are involved in.”

He added: “I have made it very clear within the pay and workload deal that I look to work closely with teachers and the professional associations to identify – by creating a sense of teacher agency and teacher autonomy – the capacity within the teaching profession to make choices about their time so they can spend their time on the valuable and productive aspects of learning and teaching, and not on the unproductive and unnecessary task of bureaucracy.”

Speaking when the survey was released earlier this month, NASUWT national official for Scotland Jane Peckham said: “Too many schools have become toxic environments to work in, where constant pressure, bullying and unsustainable workloads are making teachers mentally and physically ill.

“Action to address this must start at the top.

“The solutions to begin to alleviate this issue are there but they need statutory force and concerted attention from ministers and employers to make sure teachers feel empowered and supported at work, not broken and exhausted.”

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