HTs and DHTs Placed Under huge Pressure Throughout COVID Pandemic

Created on: 16 Dec 2020 | Last modified: 01 Mar 2021

The EIS published a new briefing paper which highlights the views of Headteachers (HTs) and Deputes (DHTs) on the pressures of working in schools during the pandemic.

The EIS recently surveyed members across Scotland on a wide range of COVID-related issues and is publishing a series of themed briefings. Today’s report is based on comments received from HTs and DHTs in response to the national survey.

Key issues identified include:

  • Senior leaders highlighted that they are doing their best to implement the guidance to keep their schools safe, but there are just too many pupils in classrooms and in communal areas.

  • Some members suggested that the transmission within their school is not being reported.

  • There was widespread concern over the wellbeing of school staff who feel under pressure with their workload and are anxious about teaching with so many pupils in class full time.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Headteachers and Deputes have been under immense pressure throughout the pandemic.

"Many Headteachers and Deputes worked through the summer holidays to prepare schools for return after the lockdown, and have continued to work extremely long hours ever since."

"Added to this, HTs and DHTs have been compelled to take on responsibility for contact tracing in their schools, with little or no additional support. With some school buildings set to remain open right up to Christmas, many HTs and DHTs will be expected to handle track and trace calls throughout the festive period."

A sample of comments from HTs and DHTs who responded to the survey is included below:

  • “The amount of additional pressure and workload on head teachers is disgraceful. Now working 7 days a week as on call constantly with no time back or recognition. Schools are not safe.”

  • “Quite concerned about the way in which the public health team is dealing with confirmed cases in school. Parent can report that child has tested positive before 9am yet it takes until 3pm for any decision to be made about the class/staff isolating.”

  • “All staff are working in a very stressful environment due to working within guidance and are exhausted.  Many feel vulnerable and would have appreciated being offered the flu vaccine as some protection against illness this winter.  Many are also feeling undervalued as it’s fine for them to work with 30 different families but not for them to visit their own.”

  • “My desire would be that schools remain open and that our pupils get the service they long for. If the public health situation is severe enough for a level 4 lockdown and all non-essential shops are closed, then serious consideration must be given to risk of staff and pupils in schools. I believe that blended learning is a half-way house and pupils would get a better deal by staff being fully committed to remote learning. The remote learning offer is now far better than what it was in April to June.”

  • “We are finding staffing incredibly challenging.  I currently have 50% of my teachers off and while we are able to cover, the lack of supply teachers available is very concerning.  I am concerned about the impact on the staff who are in and the impact long term staff absence is having on our children.”

  • Staff are exhausted and anxious. There may be a limit to how long they can continue under such pressure.”

Today’s briefing on Headteachers and Deputes is the latest publication to support the EIS campaign #NotAtAllCosts, which argues against the government plan to keep schools physically open ‘at all costs’ even in areas with high rates of COVID infection. The EIS is continuing to share members’ comments online and urges individual teachers to do the same using the hashtag #NotAtAllCosts and tagging the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in their posts.

Today’s briefing (copy attached) and further information on the #NotAtAllCosts campaign can be accessed via the EIS website at