Wear a vest if you go west

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Pity the poor druids, celebrating the summer solstice in lashing rain. And what about the woebegone Wimbledon ice-cream sellers? Summer rain can dampen the spirits. But does a rainy climate also make us ill?

That debate has been re-opened by the news that Welsh teachers have a higher absence rate than their English colleagues. Statistics suggest there is no difference between east and west-coast sickness levels. But Inverclyde council, a long-suffering expert on "dreich" weather, last year contended that driving rain and cold sea winds caused the respiratory infections that contributed to their worst-in-Scotland teacher absence rate.

Welsh hospitals' unacceptably long waiting lists may also help to explain why so many teachers were off sick for more than 20 days last year. The "greying" of the Welsh teaching force is another factor. However, politicians and administrators must also ask themselves whether they are doing enough to protect the health of their teachers. Many councils claim to be investors in people. But these absence rates tell a different story.

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