Don't get me wrong, as a governor I'm as much in favour of employment rights as the next man, and we're trying to improve the work-life balance, but I find myself in a dilemma. Yes, our teachers need security of employment, but our children need security of education too. In our primary school at the moment, these two seem to be mutually exclusive.
The headteacher has had more than one bout of long-term sick leave and has been off for nearly a year. One of the class teachers frequently has days off sick. From talking to other governors and advisers, it is clear that ours is not the only school in the area with this problem. Another local primary school has just replaced the head after she had a year off sick during which she asked for a pay rise. One head of department at the local secondary school has not yet resigned, although he has already ruined GCSE coursework plans over two years.
The disruption is enormous. In our school it has already led to shuffling of the deputy's class; a stream of supply teachers; lack of forward planning; deterioration in pupil behaviour; poor staff morale; and a quick turnover of teachers and governors, to name but a few of the problems.
Why should our children's education suffer because these teachers are not prepared to admit they cannot do their job? Why should the school carry these teachers? It puts a huge strain on the rest of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and on the budget. Even LEA personnel officials (who write the attendance policy) agree that they would be out of a job if their level of absence was anywhere near that of some teachers. This last comment would apply to other professions as well.
Shouldn't there be a way of pensioning off these disgruntled teachers? (And funded by the LEA, or central government, or pension funds? But please not from our budget, which is already depleted by the supply bill.) There must be a quicker and less painful method of resolving this problem. Could we distinguish between those teachers who feel that they've had enough and do not want to return, and those who genuinely want their jobs back? There could be some sort of fast-tracking for the former, allowing more support for the latter.
As governors we must put the children first while trying to accommodate the employment rights of our staff. I don't feel that remodelling the workforce can solve all these problems, without a bit more give and take from the teaching unions.
Our children have only one chance of an education - don't let teacher absence waste it.
The writer is a parent governor of a Cornish primary school