More than 300,000 days lost in classrooms 'due to mental ill-health'

Figures show 310,739 sick days were taken by staff between April 2021 and October last year.

More than 300,000 days lost in schools and nurseries due to mental ill-health, FOI to Lib Dems says iStock

More than 300,000 staff days have been lost in the past two years in Scotland’s schools and nurseries as a result of mental ill-health, figures show.

Statistics from 31 of Scotland’s 32 councils show 310,739 sick days were taken among teachers, support staff and nursery staff between April 2021 and October last year.

Of those days, 202,128 were taken in 2021-22, while the remaining 108,611 were taken in the first half of 2022-23.

The figures were given under freedom of information legislation to the Scottish Liberal Democrats, with education spokesman Willie Rennie saying staff were being “pushed to their absolute limit”.

He said: “Over the past years, teachers, support staff and nursery staff have all seen class sizes rise and classroom support plummet.

“It is little wonder that they are now suffering from such poor mental health. The impact on staff and the consequent disruption for children and pupils should make the government sit up and pay attention.

Rennie said pay and conditions should be reviewed for staff in the education sector, with more time made available for lesson planning and class sizes being cut.

“That’s how we tackle Scotland’s pressure cooker classrooms,” he added.

Teachers are currently locked in talks with the Scottish Government and councils over a pay deal, with a number of school days already lost to strike action, and the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association announcing for two more strikes in February and March.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said maintaining the health and wellbeing of school, and early learning and childcare staff was of “upmost importance”.

“Since October 2020, we have invested over £2m in supporting the wellbeing of the education workforce with packages of support, developed in conjunction with the Education Recovery Group,” she said.

“This support has been in addition to the existing professional learning and leadership programmes which are offered by Education Scotland.

“We are also committed to reducing teachers’ class contact time by 90 minutes per week to give them more time to plan and ease their workload.

“Local authorities also have a responsibility to support the mental health of their employees as the employer.”