Children Suffer as Strain Shows on Teachers; SCHOOLS: Staff Absenteeism Grows

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 31, 2002 | Go to article overview

Children Suffer as Strain Shows on Teachers; SCHOOLS: Staff Absenteeism Grows


Byline: RHODRI EVANS

THE education of thousands of children is being interrupted by a worryingly high rate of teacher absenteeism.

Schools draft in hundreds of supply teachers each day to cover for sick staff but the absence of the regular teachers can disrupt the flow of lessons and threaten exam performance.

A survey by The Western Mail has found that as many as 240,000 working days may have been lost last year because of teacher absence, about six days per teacher.

An average supply teacher costs pounds 130 a day so the cost of supply teachers to cover 240,000 absences would be more than pounds 31m.

All 22 local authorities in Wales were asked to provide figures for the number of days lost in the 2000-01 academic year. Sixteen were able to provide figures, giving a total of 176,325 working days lost, meaning that in all 22 authorities 240,000 days could have been lost.

While the sickness rate for teachers is not as high as those for other public-sector workers the nature of the job, with teachers working fewer days a year than other professions, means it has a deeper impact.

When primary-school teachers are absent their classes are often split between the other teachers. In secondary schools, teachers with free periods are forced to cover for absent colleagues. The result is less continuity in the classroom and a drop in standards.

The Department for Education and Skills in London yesterday released figures which showed that 2,799,900 working days were lost in English schools last year, an average of six working days per teacher and an increase on the previous two years.

The secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers Cymru, Geraint Davies, said the figures would have been bumped up by the number of teachers who were becoming ill because of the workload. …

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