Scotland’s teachers have faced soaring levels of workload throughout the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).
The poll, conducted in November, found almost nine in ten teachers indicated their workload burden had gone up, while 61% said it had increased “significantly” during the period.
More than six in ten (61%) said meeting the additional support needs of pupils, including mental health support, has significantly added to their workload in the past 12 months.
The survey of more than 16,000 teachers found the vast majority (93%) work above their contracted hours each week, with almost half (45%) of full-time staff reporting they work more than eight extra hours every week.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Teachers have continued to face a rising tide of workload throughout the pandemic, for a wide range of reasons.
“Clearly, changes brought about in response to the pandemic have had an impact on teacher workload with additional tasks requiring to be undertaken on a daily basis to help keep classrooms safe.
“The increased emphasis on digital learning – be that in the classroom or remotely from home – has created challenges for teachers, often associated with a lack of suitable equipment and resources.
“Teachers are also reporting a significant amount of time dealing with pupil behaviour as many young people continue the struggle to overcome the negative impact of the pandemic on their lives.”
Many members highlighted that moving to remote or blended learning added a considerable amount of work as everything had to be made accessible online while schools were closed, or when pupils were absent.
Others highlighted that sanitising workspaces and ensuring all Covid mitigations are followed often disrupts lessons and adds to their workload, while some noted contact from parents had increased, creating more pressure.
Among secondary school teachers, members reported the Alternative Certification Model – brought in when exams were cancelled due to the pandemic – significantly increased their workload in comparison with a normal year.
More than nine in ten (93%) respondents noted an increase in their workload, with 80% describing the increase as significant.
Flanagan said: “In addition to the challenges of keeping up to date with Government Covid safety protocols, which affect all teachers, teachers in secondary schools face additional difficulties with Scottish Qualifications Authority-related workload.
“The challenges brought about by short-notice changes to the qualifications system have been a major driver in additional workload over the past two years for secondary teachers.
“Meaningful reform of the examinations system is now required to ease the workload burden of teachers and students alike.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Teachers have been outstanding throughout the pandemic and we can’t thank them enough.
“We are committed to reducing teachers’ class contact time by 90 minutes per week to give them more time to plan and ease their workload.
“In the last year we have invested over £2m in supporting teacher wellbeing with a package of support, developed in conjunction with the Education Recovery Group.
“We have provided £240m of additional investment since the start of the pandemic, specifically for the recruitment of more education staff.”
He said figures published in December show that teacher numbers have increased for the sixth year in a row, rising to 54,285 in 2021.
He added: “There are now over 2000 more teachers than before the start of the pandemic in 2019, and more teachers than at any time since 2008. The ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2009.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie said: “Teachers have been faced with an incredibly demanding set of challenges which have frequently changed and often with little notice.
“Their response has been remarkable and parents have discovered a new-found admiration for the work of teachers.
“In return for that huge effort, political and education leaders must listen to teachers and respond with improvements such as stripping out the standardised assessments and school league tables, improve ventilation, improved pay, employ on permanent contracts the many teachers without work or those on temporary contracts, and put teachers in charge of education reforms.”
Scottish Labour education spokesperson Michael Marra said: “Scotland’s teachers have bailed out the disastrous decision making of Scottish Government education ministers time and again throughout the pandemic.
“They have gone above and beyond their contracts month after month. They are exhausted.
“The scale of the challenge ahead of our teachers must urgently be recognised by ministers.
“Recent evidence shows that the pandemic has led to a huge loss in attainment that must be addressed if this generation of young people are not to carry the scars of the pandemic through their lives.
“A pay rise – rather than a real terms pay cut – must just be the start of a true education comeback plan for Scotland. “The SNP government must acknowledge the scale of the challenge in our schools.”