Stress figures spark new row

Posed by a model.
Posed by a model.

Education chiefs in Fife have waded in to a row over teacher absence rates, claiming politicians have misled the public.

Last week, Fife was branded the second worst authority in Scotland after a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrats revealed 9,580 working days were lost due to stress in the past three years.

Citing this “worrying statistic” Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said she had written to Fife’s education boss to ask why.

“It is essential that the local authority finds out exactly why its total is so high and that it takes urgent steps to address the problem,” she said.

However, councillor Bryan Poole, Fife Council’s spokesperson for education said Ms Smith’s report of a raw figure was “actively misleading and, we assume, intended to be sensational. It is an irresponsible use of statistics.”

He continued: “If Ms Smith had written to the director of education, as she claimed she had, he would have explained that Fife’s rate of teacher absence is significantly lower than the national average. She has not written.”

But Bryan Kirkaldy, head of service, said overall teacher absence in Fife in 2011 was 5.7 per cent and fell to 5.4 per cent last year - below national levels of 6.6 and 6.2 per cent.