Make sick cover easier

Advice for seasoned practitioners

Have you had a lot of illness in your staffroom this half-term? You know how it goes. The deputy head arrives early and as she unlocks her door the phone's already ringing. She knows perfectly well - she's sure there's a special give-away sound built into it - that it's someone phoning in sick.

I don't need to tell you the chain of events that follows. It means that some poor individual who, at that moment is staggering across the car park with a pile of marking, desperate for coffee, held up only by the thought that period two is non-contact time, is about to receive a cover slipJ- for a difficult Year 9 group in the gloomiest room in the building.

Staff absence makes problems in every workplace. In some, though, it's worse because the person's work can't be left. And somebody else has to be detailed to do it. Teaching is one of those jobs, which is why absence, and cover for absence, is such a hot staffrom issue. Here's where experienced teachers have to set an example, and I offer the following guidelines that may make a potentially difficult area a little clearer.

If you can see that one of your colleagues is getting worse through the day, tell them not to come in tomorrow. It clarifies things and makes the cover arrangements easier to manage. If you have a colleague who is complaining of not feeling well, suggest they go home, which is a polite way of saying, "Put up or shut up".

If someone seems to be abusing the system by taking too many sick days, don't gossip about it, see to it that management takes it on. For all you know, the person may have a genuine problem - personally or in the family - for which they need help. Someone telling them, firmly to see a doctor may be the push they need.

As for yourself? You, of course, must come to work in every condition short of total unconsciousness. To clarify things:

* Don't worry about spreading germs. You think in a close community of nearly a thousand people your germs are going to make a difference? Come on!

* Don't worry that you will make yourself worse. If you're going to get worse, it will happen anyway.

* Don't phone and claim to have flu when it's only a bad cold. If you really did have flu, you would know about it, believe me.

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