TEACHERS are, on average, taking 7.1 days off a year through sickness, with staff in Wales at the top of the absence league, a survey has found.
Teachers' sickness rate is higher than employees in the private sector but is lower than other public-sector workers including the police, prison staff and social workers.
The survey, by the teachers' employers, also found that staff in special schools take more time off (5.06 per cent, the equivalent of 9.9 days), than in primaries (3.65 per cent) and secondaries (3.54 per cent).
Rates were highest in Wales (4.38 per cent) and lowest in the London boroughs. There was more sickness recorded in authorities in the North than those in the South.
The survey is the first carried out among teachers in England and Wales. The Prime Minister has instructed all Government departments to gather information on employees' rates of sick leave.
Previous research has found lower rates of sickness in smaller workplaces, said the report. But in schools the opposite is true. Another common factor is that women take more time off. This could be an explanation for the slightly higher sickness rate in primaries, which employ higher proportions of women.
The report concluded: "The results show there is some variation among authorities in average absence levels. It is unlikely that this can be explained solely by variations in conventions used in recording and calculating absence.
"There is scope, therefore, for the exchange of good practice ideas among education authorities, and among schools."
The questionnaires were distributed to all 171 education authorities with more than half supplying the information.