Fife teachers struggling with workloads, survey reveals

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The educational workload is unmanageable for half of secondary school staff in Fife, according to a survey.

The findings of the 2019 assessment were debated by councillors at a meeting this week as education officers presented a report on the local authority’s education service staff wellbeing strategy.

Although it painted a “generally positive picture,” the lowest scoring issues from 2019 continue to be areas of concern. These included unmanageable, workloads; communication at all levels; a feeling of being disconnected from those outwith the employee’s immediate team and increasing incidents of pupil violence and aggression against staff.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The report from education and children’s services said there have been improvements across nine areas since 2019, but a number of councillors at the education scrutiny committee, and a union representative from EIS raised concerns about the speed of progress

Stock image of a teacher in a classroom  (Pic: Pixabay)Stock image of a teacher in a classroom  (Pic: Pixabay)
Stock image of a teacher in a classroom (Pic: Pixabay)

Jane McKeown, from the Fife Local Association of the EIS, said: “We’ve seen some numbers moving slightly in the right direction, but they are staying stubbornly low from [the union’s] point of view.”

She continued: “We look at the workload demands in the secondary sector and about half our staff think their workload is not manageable. If we don’t get a handle on these things it doesn’t matter how many wellbeing groups we have, it's not going to solve the problem.”

Ms McKeown claimed that 30% of Fife’s education service staff “don’t think there’s a positive ethos within their school setting - and only 57% of staff members responded to the survey.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Councillor Sarah Neal (Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, SNP) doubled down on the need for progress.

“Staff are seeing increasingly unmanageable workloads, lack of communication at all levels, feelings of disconnect, and violence and aggression. The response seems to be more professional learning and strategies to deal with poor mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

“If staff are saying that is the problem, the answer would be to reduce workloads, increase connection, address violence and aggression, and increase communication at all levels. However, the response seems to be ‘well we’re gonna help you better manage your mental health’ instead of dealing with the issue causing the problem.”

Councillor Linda Erskine (Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty, Labour) agreed, stating that Cllr Neal “struck a real chord.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The paper is a load of words, it doesn't really get into the crux of what we need to do to make it better,” she said. “I worked in schools for years and it concerns me when I hear what teaching and support staff are going through at the moment. I know covid is blamed for a lot, but this is where we as employers need to up our game.”

Education officers pushed back, stating that Fife is dealing with problems head on through a number of strategies and reforms.

“The work to improve our approaches to incidents of violence and aggression has been outlined in previous reports and will continue through the relationships and behaviour strategy group,” the officer’s report stated.

“Appropriate professional learning for all staff, including our managers, also remains a priority.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Peer Support structures have also been piloted with small groups of staff with an aim to expand development in the future.

Additionally, 89 of Fife's 172 education settings have health and wellbeing representatives.

Related topics: