This is the time of year when staff sickness reaches its annual peak; good news for supply teachers, but not for anyone else. On average, a teacher lost five days through sickness absence in 2008, the latest year for which the figures are available, although this was nearly half a day less than in 2007. Whether swine flu will push the 2009 figure back up only time will tell.
What is clear is that the pattern of absence varies markedly across the country. In some authorities, the percentage of days of sickness that are part of a long-term absence of 20 days or more is much higher than in others.
Although the East of England is the region where these absences form the lowest percentage, at 32 per cent, they are closely followed by London at 33 per cent, and the South East at 36 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, 44 per cent of absences in the West Midlands, 47 per cent of those by teachers in the North West, and 48 per cent of absences in the North East were of 20 days' duration or longer.
But even within regions there were wide variations. Two-thirds of the total sickness in Brighton and Hove was of 20 days or more, whereas in South Tyneside these longer absences accounted for just 9 per cent of the total days missed.
In all, some 252,000 teachers took at least one day off sick in 2008, but that still left about another 200,000 who didn't.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.