Argyll & Bute: Teacher sick days for mental health issues doubled in past year

A rise in stress levels of teachers is causing more teachers to require sick pay and take sick days.
A rise in stress levels of teachers is causing more teachers to require sick pay and take sick days.

Argyll and Bute Council has pledged to offer support after the number of sick days for head teaching staff for mental health issues nearly doubled in the area last year.

Figures have revealed that 356 sick days were taken by head or deputy head teachers for mental health reasons in 2017-18, compared to 158 the previous year.

The number of days taken by affected teachers and support staff also increased, bringing about a total of 3,555 sick days taken by teaching staff in Argyll and Bute in 2017/18 – compared to 3,166 in 2016/17 and 3,117 in 2015/16.

The data has been uncovered by a freedom of information request made by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The request found that in total, almost 400,000 sick days have been taken by teaching staff across Scotland for mental health reasons in the last three years, more than 145,000 of them last year.

A council spokesperson said: “Local authorities across Scotland are all experiencing a rise in sickness absence – something we are taking very seriously. The health and wellbeing of our workforce is a priority and we have put a variety of support services in place to help our employees.

“These include employee counselling, referrals to occupational health specialists and a stress reduction policy.

“We have also established a healthy working lives steering group to drive forward our wellbeing agenda.”

The Liberal Democrats’ findings revealed that Glasgow City Council was worst affected in Scotland for sick days for teachers’ mental health, with more than 16,000 taken in 2017/18 and more than 44,000 over the last three years.

Tavish Scott, the Lib Dems’ education spokesperson, spoke out about the figures.

He said: “The pressure on classroom teachers is obvious.

“Teaching unions are worried by falling teacher morale, the top-down approach to education by central government and the impact of testing regimes on classrooms.

“This pressure has to be a factor in the growing number of absences caused by mental ill health.”