STAFF sickness is soaring among teachers in Inverclyde with more than 8,000 days of absence recorded across local schools in just the last two years.

Stark figures reveal that a total of 8,841 days were lost in primary and secondary schools between July 2021 and June 2023.

Work-related stress was high on the list for absences and has rocketed by more than a third in primary schools.

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Paula McEwan, a local teacher and the first national president of the EIS from Inverclyde, says she is not surprised by the figures and believes they are the result of a series of combined pressures taking their toll on colleagues.

Ms McEwan told the Telegraph: "The rise in work-related stress absences isn't a surprise in the current climate, but it is heartening that teachers feel comfortable in reporting and discussing the issues they are facing.

"Class sizes are continuing to rise which in turn brings an increasing workload. The Scottish Government's commitment to reduce a teacher's class contact time to 21 hours hasn't materialised.

"That would bring an additional 90 minutes of preparation and correction each week.

"Teachers are also working with an ever-diverse range of additional support needs in their classes."

Ms McEwan says that while more children need extra help there is a lack of resources to provide it.

She said: "In 2009, four per cent of the pupil population had a recognised additional support need. In 2022, that had risen to 34 per cent, without an equivalent rise in funding and training."

She revealed that pupil behaviour and staff shortages are also major sources of concern for teachers.

Ms McEwan said: "We know anecdotally that incidence of violence and aggression towards teachers has increased, so it's little wonder teachers are finding themselves overwhelmed.

"The Scottish Government commitment of 3,500 additional teachers would go some way to mitigate these challenges but we are yet to see any concrete steps towards delivery of that promise."

The statistics show local primary schools are most affected by staff absence. The figure has risen from 1,548 days during the 2021/2022 term to 2,943 in 2022/23.

The information, obtained from the council by the Tele using Freedom of Information laws, shows that work-related stress increased from 65 days two years ago to 332 days in the following term.

Absence due to mental health issues also increased in primary schools, with an extra 100 days lost to it in the last year. The 2022-23 total reached 573 days.

In secondary schools, teachers were off sick for 2,394 in the 2022-23 term, up markedly from 1,956 the previous year.

A total of 795 teachers were employed across all schools in the district in 2021 and this fell by 27 to 768 in 2022.

An Inverclyde Council spokesperson said: “Absence is unavoidable in any workplace for a wide variety of reasons and we provide support to colleagues whatever the circumstance and in line with existing procedures.

“As a responsible employer, we take seriously our duty of care for our employees and we proactively support colleagues and promote openness to minimise the need for absences but sometimes being off work is unavoidable and we do all we can to help colleagues back to work as soon as they are well enough to do so.”