Published: 16/09/2017 07:23 - Updated: 15/09/2017 15:41

Classroom changes pile on stress in Moray

‘CATASTROPHIC’ workforce planning has been blamed for high stress levels among teachers in Moray. 

Derek Ross, Independent councillor for Speyside Glenlivet, said teachers working in schools across the local area and throughout the country are "demoralised" through increased workloads. 

This, he said, was being exacerbated by an inability to attract new recruits to the profession. 

A Bath Spa University report, published last week, found that over half of Scottish teachers were dissatisfied with their jobs and around 40 per cent were aiming to leave their posts within 18 months. 

Around 5000 teachers took part in the survey – including those in primary, secondary and college jobs – as well as those in management roles. 

The report, titled Scotland’s Teachers: Working Conditions and Wellbeing, was compiled by Dr Jermaine M Ravalier and Dr Joe Walsh. It found that reasons for quitting the profession included stress, lack of job satisfaction and high levels of negative pupil behaviour. 

Cllr Ross, a retired drama teacher and member of the EIS union, said: "It’s been catastrophic workforce planning by the Scottish Government that has led to this. 

"Moray is bearing the brunt but every local authority has a teacher shortage. 

"This places huge pressures on teachers, along with the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence. 

"In Moray, we can’t get headteachers and we can’t get teachers and that’s not the fault of Moray Council – it’s the fault of the SNP government. 

"They’ve  had 10 years and they’ve not been able to solve this crisis. 

"They have a duty to have qualified teachers in front of children." 

The Independent councillor continued: "Teachers are demoralised.

"The government needs to get as many retired teachers back into classrooms as possible, until they are able to train up new teachers, and they need to be graduate teachers not someone who has been selected to get people off the streets."

Laurence Findlay, director of education health and social care with the local authority, said issues relating to attracting people into the profession had combined to create a "perfect storm". 

And while the council had introduced incentives to encourage those interested into a career at the chalk face, at the start of the current term, there were 40 teacher jobs vacancies. 

Mr Findlay also said at a council meeting last month that he suspected the actual real figure was "well in excess of 50", but a number of schools had been covering classes with headteachers and depute heads. 

Mr Findlay told ‘The Scot’ yesterday: "It’s hard to know quite where we can go next. 

"The problem is there is just not enough people doing the job, and that puts pressure on others in the profession." 

He added: "Across the public sector people have not had a pay increase, other than the one per cent, for some time. 

"Graduates will look at this, and pay in other sectors, and that will be having an impact. 

"Nicola Sturgeon lifted that pay cap and I will be keeping a watchful eye on that to see if it has any impact on recruitment." 

A former head teacher at Forres Academy, Mr Findlay believes children educated in the area are generally well behaved. 

He said: "I think Moray schools are a nice place to teach in by and large, and we don’t have a huge amount of complaints about pupil behaviour. 

"Young people in my experience are very well behaved, polite and willing to learn. 

"I don’t think that is as big an issue here as it is in other places." 

The report highlighted paperwork and associated administration as teachers’ biggest cause of stress. 

Respondents to the survey also wanted greater support from management on matters such as parental behaviour and workplace bullying. 

Change was also noted as a stress factor, with the curriculum described as being ‘packed’ with the need for frequent updates. 

Some responders wanted greater appreciation of the job they do from parents, employers and the government. 

There was also concern over class sizes, with some questioning the inclusion agenda for the most difficult pupils. 

The report stated: "It is clear there needs to be a consistent and systematic focus on improvement of working conditions for Scottish teachers. 

"However, with so many potential issues to deal with, a staged and focused approach is required."

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