Employers' unfair line on sick leave';Letter

17th December 1999 at 00:00
I READ the articles on staff absence with increasing anger. (TES, December 3).

As a teaching head of a rural primary I have just been sent a list of comparative statistics for the school. Our absence rate was 0.59 days per teacher last year - well below average.

As I looked around the staffroom the reason for this was soon apparent. Three-quarters of the teachers were not really fit to be there but like the vast majority they turn up unless they can no longer think, act or speak owing to illness (a combination of two of these is not usually sufficient).

They turn up because they know that their absence is likely to be disruptive and may ultimately impoverish the quality of education provided.

I'm glad the report accepts that many absences reported "will be genuine." At the risk of being considered a force of conservatism, might I suggest that now the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers has completed its report, a more effective means of reducing absence might be to investigate the causes.

In my opinion absence, in many cases, is stress related, caused by adverse working conditions such as: a visit by Office for Standards in Education; initiative overload; extended working hours (often well over 60 hours per week); totally inadequate non-contact time; unfair funding, particularly in primary schools; league tables; a perception that improvement is made by government policy and failure is the responsibility of inadequate teachers.

In other schools problems with children, parents and governors might be added to this list.

I have no sympathy with any teacher who might take unexplained absence but the National Employers' Organisation should look to its own conditions of employment.

If "there should be no suggestion of an acceptable level of sickness" then there should be no acceptable stress levels in schools (and all children should be kept at home in case they are carrying any germs!)

Derek Angood

Headteacher

Appleton Roebuck primary school

York

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