A TOTAL of 13,620 days were lost last year in Fife schools as a result of mental ill health.

Figures released by the Scottish Liberal Democrats following Freedom of Information requests have revealed that more than 300,000 staff days across the country were lost in the past two years in Scotland’s schools and nurseries.

The figures for Fife show that in 2021/22, there were 13,620 days where staff were absent for mental ill health reasons.

Liberal Democrat Scotland's education spokesperson, and former Dunfermline and West Fife MP, Willie Rennie MSP, has now called on the Government to take urgent action to support Scotland’s education sector and tackle "pressure cooker classrooms".

He said: "These figures show that having been pushed to their absolute limit, teachers and nursery staff feel overworked, undervalued and burned out.

"Over the past years, teachers, support staff and nursery staff have all seen class sizes rise and classroom support plummet. It is little wonder that they are now suffering from such poor mental health.

"The impact on staff and the consequent disruption for children and pupils should make the government sit up and pay attention.

"It comes at a time when the poverty-related attainment gap has remained broadly the same and worsened in certain areas.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats have been long-standing advocates for education. To get Scottish education back on track, we need to get the basics right. That means reviewing pay and conditions for staff in the education sector, creating more time for lesson-planning and cutting class sizes so that pupils get the support they deserve. That's how we tackle Scotland's pressure cooker classrooms."

Reacting to the statistics, Fife Council's head of education and children's services, Shelagh McLean, said that since 2009, they had carried out staff wellbeing surveys in schools every two years.

"This is as well as gathering staff feedback across our wider organisation," she said.

"We recognise and value the hard work and dedication of all our staff in schools and we use the information gathered to continue to develop our Wellbeing Strategy, with a clear aim being to make sure our schools are healthy workplaces where poor mental health is supported in the same way as poor physical health.

"We understand that work-related interventions are not enough to support employees whose stress might be from outside the workplace and, to help, all Fife Council employees are able to self-refer to a counselling service, and across Fife Council we are continuing to introduce a network of mental health first aiders.

"These interventions supplement existing services on offer, such as occupational health, family-friendly policies and training."