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The Scottish education system is “on the verge of a crisis” the new President of NASUWT Scotland-The Teachers’ Union has warned today, with “a culture of fear and anxiety across Scottish education.”

Bernadette Easton, a primary teacher from Kirkcaldy in Fife, has told the Union’s virtual Scotland Annual Conference that the cumulative impact of the pandemic on top of the pre-existing pressures of excessive workload, assessment requirements and the failure to equip schools with the resources and support they need to meet the needs of all pupils is overloading teachers who feel “demoralised, unsupported and unrecognised.”

Bernadette pointed to a rise in stress and mental ill health among teachers in the last year, saying:

“Teachers have gone the extra mile to facilitate remote learning for all young people and this has not been without its challenges.  The pressure on every professional speed learning how to use Teams, how to innovate with digital technology, how to deliver an effective level of education.  There was an expectation of near normal education, in a situation which was anything but normal. It is no wonder there has been an increase in mental health issues by teachers.” 

Teachers have been left vulnerable due to a lack of safety mitigations in some schools and the pressures of trying to juggle remote teaching with in-person teaching as lockdown restrictions fluctuated, she said, pointing to the impact this has had on teachers’ workloads:

“The workload involved in trying to support pupils back in to the classroom, the unpaid hours given to meet deadlines and prepare for variable platforms of learning have placed the profession under tremendous strain. Teachers have been undertaking live lessons, often on their own devices, worrying about having to teach from their home, concerned about how they were judged and perceived on these new platforms by pupils, parents and senior management.  The Government certainly needs to look at teacher workload again.”

Bernadette has called on the Scottish Government and employers to equip, prepare and support teachers for the ongoing impact of Covid and ensure teachers are “not lighting a candle in the dark and trying to find a way out”.

She said: “We need an education system which is prepared - prepared for the challenging effects of Covid on children, prepared to bridge the digital divide in ensuring all children can access remote learning, and prepared in case there is another wave. 

“We must ensure everything is in place so we are not lighting a candle in the dark and trying to find a way out.  There must be consistency and a uniform approach to remote learning moving forward.  And, there must be greater focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of teachers, making sure they can feel safe and are not overloaded.”

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