Exhausted head teachers are at risk of burnout due to excessive workload as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a union has warned.
Heads and depute head teachers, many of whom worked through the summer holiday, have told of unrealistic demands and a lack of support while they cope with a higher than normal absence rate among staff.
The Educational Institute of Scotland warned that as well as the prospect of contracting Covid-19 from pupils or colleagues, school management teams faced the threat of stress-related illness as a result of unsustainable pressure.
Worked through holiday
It said heads and deputes who had worked through the holidays to prepare schools to reopen continued to face excessive pressure and just four weeks into the new term were already exhausted.
A Scottish Government u-turn just days before schools broke off for the summer holidays ripped up plans already in place for pupils to be in school part-time, with head teachers told to prepare for a full-time return instead.
Lorraine McBride, convener of the EIS’s head teachers and depute head teachers network, said: “Burnout is a very real risk for members of staff who have not had a real break since before the lockdown began.
“The challenge of having to plan entirely new methods of educational delivery, then re-plan again at short notice as a result of changes in government policy, has heaped huge amounts of pressure on school management teams across the country.
The risk to the health and well being of head teachers and deputes is very real and very worrying.”
Lorraine McBride, EIS
“The levels of additional management and HR functions that SMTs have faced have been quite incredible.”
One head teacher, she said, spoke of carrying out 30 individual risk assessments in the week before his school reopened without any extra support.
She said: “The risk to the health and well being of head teachers and deputes is very real and very worrying.
“In addition to the increased risk of contracting Covid as a result of working in busy school buildings, there is a growing danger of stress-related illness taking its toll on school management teams.
“How will our education system cope if a large number of HTs and DHTs become ill as a result of the current situation that they are facing at work?”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman responded: “We do not underestimate the extraordinary efforts being made by school staff to support education recovery.
We do not underestimate the extraordinary efforts being made by school staff to support education recovery.”
“Their work to welcome our children and young people back into schools in challenging circumstances is vitally important, and the Scottish Government is working closely with local authorities, unions and other key partners to offer support wherever possible.
“We have provided £80 million to local authorities, enough to recruit around 1,400 additional teachers and 200 support staff, in order to bring much needed resilience to the education system and to compensate for any loss of learning suffered by children and young people during lockdown.
“We are continuing work with partners to ensure that the right support is in place for school staff.
“Our guidance on school reopening has been developed in partnership with the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group, and makes clear that the health and wellbeing of staff is a key principle of education recovery.
“National organisations and local authorities provide a range of support to the workforce, including employee assistance programmes and online professional learning and support covering the health and wellbeing of staff.”