School Staff Take Almost 400,000 Sick Days Related To Mental Health

3 January 2019, 07:43 | Updated: 3 January 2019, 07:45

Empty classroom

School staff in Scotland missed almost 400,000 work days for mental health reasons in the last three years, figures show.

Teachers and support staff took 395,330 sick days related to mental health since 2015-16, according to research using a freedom of information request by the Scottish Lib Dems, who criticised the SNP's "baffling" education policies.

The findings reveal teaching absences have risen from 75,281 to 87,066 days in the three-year period.

Support staff sickness due to issues such as stress, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder increased from 43,307 days to 58,300 by the last academic year.

Glasgow had the largest number of staff days lost in 2017-18 at 16,127, followed by Fife with 12,127 days, and the Highlands with 11,781.

Twenty-nine out of Scotland's 32 local authorities responded to the request, with Angus, Falkirk and Moray councils not providing the information.

Blaming increased pressure on teachers, Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman Tavish Scott said: "These figures show that since 2015/16, almost 400,000 staff days have been lost for mental health reasons. Year after year the number lost has risen.

"The pressure on classroom teachers is obvious. Teaching unions are worried by falling teacher morale, the top-down approach to education by central government, and the impact of testing regimes on classrooms.

"This pressure has to be a factor in the growing number of absences caused by mental ill health.

"In 2019, the Scottish Government must turn over a new leaf and work to reduce the pressure on Scotland's overworked school staff.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to demand better for our schools. That's why we are calling for a better pay deal for teachers, backed by an independent review of their conditions and the demands placed upon them, and a new package of measures to make teaching the valued and rewarding profession that it should be."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is important that all public sector workers providing frontline services are in the strongest position to deliver those services.

"Although it is for local authorities to ensure all of their staff, including teachers, have access to the necessary mental health and wellbeing support, our 10 year Mental Health Strategy outlines a range of actions aimed at ensuring everyone in Scotland can get the right support when they need it most.

"We have also taken decisive action to reduce teacher workload and recruit additional teachers to avoid any additional burden on existing staff."