SPECIAL INVESTIGATION - More than half-a-million teaching hours lost in Nottinghamshire schools due to staff sickness

More than half a million teaching hours have been lost in Nottinghamshire over the past six years due to teachers calling in sick, shocking new figures by education chiefs have revealed.

Friday, 15th January 2016, 4:10 pm
Updated Friday, 15th January 2016, 4:14 pm

Of these around 20 per cent - almost 100,000 hours - were lost due to stress and related conditions.

According to the figures, provided by Nottinghamshire County Council following a Freedom of Information request, between 2010 and the end of 2015 a total of 524,646 hours were lost due to staff illness, of which 98,108 hours were stress-related.

The figures equate to 69 teachers absent from work each day since January 1, 2010, in Nottinghamshire alone, of which the equivalent 12.5 teachers are absent each day due to stress.

The statistics only relate to schools run by Nottinghamshire County Council, or schools that use the authority to provide payroll services.

But teacher unions say the statistics are just the tip of the iceberg, with more schools becoming academies which are independent from the local authority.

Liam Conway, divisional secretary for the county’s National Union of Teachers (NUT), told the Chad that the instances of stress amongst teachers that the organisation is dealing with is soaring.

He said: “These figures are not surprising to me at all. Historically, people left teaching because they could not deal with the behaviour in the classroom, and this may have been about their suitability to the role,

“But now we are getting far more instances relating to the unbelievable levels of work, the pressure for students to achieve in exams, and management bullying in schools. People are getting to the point where they just cannot face going into work.

“I have done 36 years in the profession and the difference between then and now is simply staggering. Schools used to be very happy places, but they’re certainly not anymore - they’re not happy for the teachers and they’re not happy for the kids.

“The profession is dominated by a culture of politicians not listening to teachers. They will listen to heads, they will listen to Ofsted - they will listen to every Tom, Dick and Harry who never goes into a classroom.

“You get a lot of talk about how standards are improving, but you can do a lot with statistics, and teachers are having to jump through a lot of hoops to make a school, or a county authority or an academy chain look good - but it’s not about sustainable learning and this creates panic.

“Teachers put more pressure on the kids which breaks down relationships in the classroom. With GCSE students, youngsters in years 10 and 11, there is a lot going on with them aside from their exams and you have to work with them in lots of different ways to help them succeed.

“They really don’t respond to hectoring - this just leads to alienation. I love teaching and I love the interaction with the kids - when you are on fire in the classroom there is really nothing better - but this is being overshadowed by the need to fulfil mechanistic processes. We have a duty of care and there is way more to teaching than just their statistics. It really is like the Wild West.”

The figures also put massive strain on the public purse, with schools and authorities not only having to pay the salary of the absent staff members, but also having to pay separately to cover the lessons.

Supply teachers, often employed via specialist agencies, are paid anything from £100 to £150 per day, with the agency charging commission on top.

Some schools instead opt to bring in unqualified cover supervisors at a much lower daily rate, but critics have argued that the practice impacts on the quality of education while the assigned teacher is absent.

Marion Clay, acting service director for Education Standards at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The County Council provides extensive support and advice to school leaders on how to manage absence related issues and school staff have access to Occupational Health and counselling support.

She added: “Head teachers and governing bodies regularly monitor staff attendance and in 2015 the county council revised its advice and guidance to schools on this important issue and provided training to school leaders and governors “

In 2015 it emerged that schools in Nottinghamshire could be heading for ‘the perfect storm’ with thousands of teaching saying that they are planning on quitting the profession in 2016 and 2017, according to a YouGov poll.

The survey suggested that teachers are working anything up to 60 hours per week, and detailed plummeting morale among staff.

It revealed that 53 per cent of teachers are thinking of quitting in the next couple of years.

The top reasons given were “volume of workload” (61 per cent) and “seeking a better work/life balance” (57 per cent).

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) also said that current policies for the school curriculum and pupil assessment are narrow and uncreative.

The problem is also being compounded by a steady rise in pupil numbers, along with a fall in the number of graduates entering the teaching profession.

The government is also resisting calls to increase teacher salaries beyond the proposed one per cent for 2016.

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