Absentee teachers cost pound;1m per day

26th March 2004 at 00:00
Teacher absenteeism is costing the taxpayer more than pound;1 million a day, a new study reveals.

An analysis of the first four years of the telephone helpline, the Teacher Support Line, found that more than 10 per cent of calls were about depression, anxiety and stress-related sickness.

Department for Education and Skills figures show that 57 per cent of the workforce - or an estimated 293,000 teachers - took time off sick during 2002, the last year for which figures are available.

Almost 2.75m days were taken that year as sickness absence, compared with 2.5m in 1999.

A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published last June found that public-sector workers had higher levels of absenteeism, at 4.6 per cent, than employees in the private sector with 3.1 per cent. While teachers had an average of 4.2 days off a year, in the health, police and fire services it was five days.

The TSL report, The Story So Far, found that while 10 per cent of calls were about stress and related illness, sufferers were reluctant to seek medical help or confide in colleagues.

The telephone helpline has dealt with more than 76,000 school staff since its introduction in 1999.

On average, it counsels 19,000 teachers or 4.2 per cent of the total in England annually.

One in 10 callers was concerned about conflict in the workplace, while almost 5 per cent were worried about workload.

Just over 4 per cent rang for help with the "dripping tap effect" of poor discipline. So far there have been 124 calls from teachers about false or malicious pupil claims.

Women made almost 80 per cent of calls to the helpline. Sixty per cent of callers were classroom teachers, with newly- qualified teachers making 18 per cent of calls and heads of department 17 per cent.

Headteachers accounted for about 4 per cent of calls, and deputy heads 8 per cent. The number of NQTs contacting the helpline rose from 4.3 per cent in 1999-2000 to 9 per cent in 2002-3.

Mary Doherty, director of teacher supply and recruitment at the General Teaching Council for England, said: "Teachers give a great deal of support to others on a daily basis and, like other professionals, will have times when they need advice and support themselves. " Teacher Support Line: 08000 562 561, or go to www.teachersupport.info

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