Teachers have been left “exhausted” by the pressures caused by the pandemic, Highland Council has acknowledged.
A new report lays bare the anxiety levels that have been blighting the working lives of some staff since lockdown.
The council is to use funds coming from the Scottish Government to help schools manage the additional pressures and support their teams.
The government has committed £1.5 million for such purposes, though share of the fund that will be made available to the Highland is as yet unclear.
In a report to councillors, the council’s chief psychologist Bernadette Cairns said the impact and consequence of Covid-19 on many members of staff in schools is equally as concerning as the impact on children.
She says: “It is exhausting to have to rethink actions that in the past would have been automatic and to work in an environment where physical touch and connection is limited or not possible, especially in working with younger children and those requiring more guidance.”
Sessions for head teachers are underway to focus on the physical and psychological impact of the pandemic and what the current support needs are for themselves and their staff.
At a meeting of the council’s education committee, councillor Emma Knox said teachers were ‘frazzled and absolutely exhausted’.
“Children are more resilient and resourceful than they’re often given credit for,” she said.
“A lot of the anxieties expressed by our younger people derive from and reflect the anxieties of the adults who care for them, including parents, carers and teachers.
“I would suggest that if we don’t look after the adults’ health and wellbeing it will impact on the children in their care.
“Our teaching and support staff are frazzled. They are absolutely exhausted.
“Their mental wellbeing undoubtedly impacts on the children in their care.”
Mrs Knox said more than £1 million already allocated for school counselling services should be available used to support school staff as well as pupils.
“It would benefit pupils if the counselling service, whatever form it takes is also made available to school staff.”
Mrs Cairns said measures currently in place to support staff include counselling and direct clinical supervision from educational psychologists for some head teachers, with a bigger project being developed to reach a wider number.
“We need to plan for it,” she said.
A Highland council spokeswoman said: “Earlier this year, we partnered with an organisation called Spectrum Life to provide staff with free mental wellbeing support, fitness plans, legal assistance, financial advice and eLearning content related to a variety of wellbeing topics.
“Area education managers and the education improvement team also provide practical advice and guidance on a weekly drop in basis.
“Education staff are also able to access mental health and wellbeing resources on the council’s digital schools hub”.
Recent research by the charity Education Support shows that when teachers in Scotland were asked if they felt valued by the UK’s respective education departments during the first stage of the crisis, 43% of teachers reported feeling appreciated, faring better than Wales at 21% in Wales and England at 15%.
Nationally, half the UK’s school teachers (52%) say their mental health declined during the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic, while 67% of senior leaders working on-site at a school or college say the lack of timely government guidance has been a key challenge for them throughout.