The additional workload demands being placed on school management teams (SMTs) as a result of the COVID pandemic are "excessive" and "unsustainable", Scotland’s Headteachers (HTs) and Depute Headteachers (DHTs) have said.

At a meeting of the EIS Headteachers and Depute Headteachers Network on Friday, HTs and DHTs voiced their concerns over ever-changing guidelines, increased and unrealistic demands and lack of support from local authorities, poor facilities to support new methods of working, excessive additional workload, and the associated negative impact on the health and wellbeing of SMTs.

Amongst the issues of concern raised by HTs and DHTs in Friday's meeting were:

  • Excessive additional workload pressures being placed on SMTs as a result of constantly changing plans and guidance – e.g. many HTs and DHTs were required to work throughout the holiday period to prepare schools for re-opening, have continued to face excessive pressure once schools have re-opened and after only four weeks into the new term are exhausted.

  • Poor facilities and support from local authorities for SMTs attempting to adapt to new ways of working – e.g. poor IT infrastructure and connectivity making working online and holding virtual meetings, in line with physical distancing guidance, completely impossible.

  • Concern that SMTs have increasingly become ‘managers’, taking on more and more management, supervisory and HR functions during the COVID period, with a loss of focus on HTs and DHTS being leaders of learning across their schools.

  • Risk to health in the current situation – stress related illness as a result of ever-increasing workload, and increased risk of potential COVID infection as a result of working, often without physical distancing, with large groups of colleagues and/or pupils.

  • Increasing human resource pressures, with higher than normal rates of teacher illness requiring to be managed at a time of substantial staffing pressure across the system.

Commenting, Lorraine McBride, Convener of the EIS HT & DHT Network, said, “This meeting heard first-hand testimony from Headteachers and Depute Headteachers in schools across Scotland highlighting the huge pressures that they have been under throughout the COVID crisis."

"The ever-evolving situation, and frequently changing policy in relation to schools, has substantially increased the workload of all teachers with a particularly heavy burden often falling on School Management Teams.”

Ms McBride continued, “Burnout is a very real risk for members of staff who have not had a real break since before the lockdown began."

"The challenge of having to plan entirely new methods of educational delivery, then re-plan again at short notice as a result of changes in government policy, has heaped huge amounts of pressure on School Management Teams across the country.”

She added, “The levels of additional management and HR functions that SMTs have faced have been quite incredible.  As one Headteacher told the meeting today, he was required to carry out 30 individual risk assessments in the week before the school re-opened, which he was committed to doing but had to do without any extra support being provided to him."

"That represents additional workload, over and above all of a Headteacher’s normal responsibilities, and illustrates the unmanageable and unstainable levels of workload pressure that SMTs are facing in schools across Scotland."

“The risk to the health and wellbeing of Headteachers and Deputes is very real and very worrying.  In addition to the increased risk of contracting COVID as a result of working in busy school buildings, there is a growing danger of stress-related illness taking its toll on school management teams."

"How will our education system cope if a large number of HTs and DHTs become ill as a result of the current situation that they are facing at work?”