Scotland politics

Teachers lose more days to mental illness

generic teacher Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption There are currently about 50,000 teachers working in Scottish schools

The number of days teachers take off work due to mental health reasons in Scotland has increased over the past three years.

Statistics obtained by the Lib Dems showed teachers, headteachers, teaching support staff and nursery staff took a total of 158,639 days off in 2015/16.

This was compared to 150,000 in 2014/15 and almost 140,000 in 2013/14.

The Scottish government said it was working closely with unions and councils to address the issue.

And it said it was the first Holyrood administration to have a ministerial post dedicated to mental health.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said the figures it had obtained under freedom of information laws highlighted the need to "reduce the burden on teachers", and to deliver mental health treatment when people need it.

Teaching unions in Scotland have complained about heavy workloads in recent years, particularly around changes to school curriculum and exam systems, with similar concerns also being raised elsewhere in the UK.

'Right support'

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the fact that Scottish teachers had taken a total of 477,000 days off work due to mental health issues in the past three years suggested the profession was under "severe strain".

He added: "The fact that numbers are rising year-on-year shows they are clearly not receiving the right support.

"It raises serious questions about the Scottish government's education and mental health policies."

There are currently about 50,00 teachers and early learning staff working in Scottish schools.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said it recognised the crucial role that mental health plays, particularly in the work place, and was working to support teachers.

She added: "It's why we are the first Scottish government to have a ministerial post dedicated to mental health and why we are investing an additional £150m to boost support for areas which are absolute priorities for us, including improving access to services, and increasing support for early intervention and prevention, to support people to keep well.

"This will deliver the transformation in mental health services we want to achieve over the next 10 years."