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Extended leave for teachers

(34 Posts)
AngelaLans Thu 23-Oct-14 20:16:32

A teacher in our independent school went on leave due to mental health issues during the end of the summer term, and had 7 or 8 weeks of leave, then came back and taught for a couple of weeks, when school ended.

This autumn she came back, taught for two weeks, got a doctor's note and is off now until the end of November. There is a lot of gossip and speculation about political problems between she and the head. If that were true, and she was trying to be off on leave as much as possible without resigning, could she carry on like this indefinitely (or as long as she could get a doctor's note)?

louisejxxx Thu 23-Oct-14 21:37:31

If she is off with "mental health issues" she could just keep getting doctor's notes for a while, yes. I'm afraid I'm not too sure how long this would be allowed to go on for though to be honest...presumably for as long as it takes if she does have serious issues.

Coolas Thu 23-Oct-14 22:33:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MillyMollyMama Thu 23-Oct-14 23:28:23

It would depend on her contract regarding sick pay but if she comes back and works for a bit and then goes off again, this is not just a problem for the school, it is a problem for her pupils too. Schools can initiate a medical assessment to see if the teacher is fit to do her job because the expectation of being a teacher is that you are there to teach. The school will have to decide when the sickness is beyond their tolerance levels. They also will be aware that staff do suffer stress if there is a disagreement at school and she won't be the first teacher to have gone on sick leave. She may well be negotiating her severance deal as we write!

AngelaLans Fri 24-Oct-14 08:09:17

Thanks for the replies. The children in this teacher's class are now being taught by an unqualified, inexperienced teacher, who has only taught supply in her 4 terms of teaching experience, and never at year 6 level. And so naturally parents are upset, but school cannot get a permanent replacement for the teacher as she is off on extended sick leave. In the meanwhile, the children's year 6 experience (for which parents are paying dearly) is, shall we say, sub-optimal. I was curious as to how long it could continue, or whether it might be this supply teacher for the whole year, because school's hands are tied.

AngelaLans Fri 24-Oct-14 08:11:23

MMM, we don't know for sure if it is a real mental health issue, or if it is some tension at work (maybe it's the first, caused by the second), so we're trying to be fair, but also balance needs of the children!

Pooka Fri 24-Oct-14 08:16:34

Dcs are in state sector. When a year 6 teacher suddenly was unable to work due to ill health, the SENCO/assistant head stepped in for a term. Supply tends not to be used except as last resort in year 6. Parents were delighted because he is an excellent teacher and because despite the initial disruption, there was good communication with parents and an attempt to minimise disruption.

We were fortunate to have a non-teaching assistant head who could step in and pass some of his SENCO responsibilities onto the head teacher and other SLT.

LaurieFairyCake Fri 24-Oct-14 08:20:20

You don't need to know if it's a 'real mental health issue' - her doctor is the one that signs her off and its confidential.

Speculating about that is awful too.

You follow the sick policy as a school and that's that.

Peoples sick reasons are confidential and really people shouldn't be gossiping.

Pooka Fri 24-Oct-14 08:21:41

It would really be best not to speculate on her illness. It's not actually relevant to you as parents and is between her and the head. What is relevant is how the school leadership deal with your children and the teaching of them.

It doesn't sound on the face if it to be being dealt with very well. It's good that you have one supply rather than a string of them. I wouldn't be happy with the unqualified status of the teacher. Despite having limited experience he/she might be excellent. Some of dc's favourite and best teachers have been NQT. With emphasis on qualified.

Pooka Fri 24-Oct-14 08:22:41

Agree with lauriefairycake. Honestly - gossiping about nature of illness is really not on.

LIZS Fri 24-Oct-14 08:33:14

If she had been signed off longer term I suspect they wouldn't have a NQT supply covering, but maybe they will change after half term having got more information on the potential duration . The difficulty with many illnesses especially Mental Health is that the extent is often unknown in advance. It is perfectly possible she could receive up to 6 months' sick leave on full pay if certified, depending on her contract, during which time a permanent replacement cannot be appointed. You don't know that it is work related stress that is underlying this, the teacher in question may have problems outside work which have contributed to the situation. I'm surprised the school has even revealed as much. Best to avoid descending into speculation and playground tittle tattle.

MidniteScribbler Fri 24-Oct-14 08:33:52

Take the teacher out of the equation altogether. It's nothing to do with you, and you can cause real problems by spreading such chinese whispers. You have no right to know why the teacher is on leave.

What you can do is express your concern if whether this supply teacher is having an impact on your child's education. Make an appointment to speak with the school, go in with factual concrete examples of problems you are having, and propose some solutions. Leave the ill teacher out of it.

Lonecatwithkitten Fri 24-Oct-14 08:36:18

I think you need to shift your concern from why the teacher is off, to how the school is tackling the abscence.
For different reasons my DD's year 6 class at an independent school that is focused on 11+ was left a short notice without a teacher. The school approached a very experienced teacher who retired 18minths ago (but has continued to assist on school trips) who covers class time 2 days a week and teaches English, Geography and PSHE. The deputy head covers class time 2 days a week and the head covers 1 day week. The head also covers the maths set.
They presented the parents with a clear plan as to how they were covering the classes and ensuring the best teaching. All communication between any of them is always cced to the others and recently I had a meeting with all three teachers present.
This actually has been a great solution.

catslife Fri 24-Oct-14 09:01:14

I appreciate that it is very difficult for parents when their child's teacher goes on long term sick leave, but agree with the previous poster that the most important thing is that the best possible cover is supplied for their class while they are away.
It sounds to me as if this teacher has been put under pressure to return to work too soon and it hasn't worked out. In many cases a phased return to work where the teacher returns part-time and gradually builds up their hours works out well for both the staff and the school.
Given that Y6 is an important year group perhaps the school management should have made better cover arrangements during this teacher's absence.

AngelaLans Fri 24-Oct-14 09:10:13

My concern is NOT focused on why the teacher is gone; I didn't say I have any right to know. Christ. I guess I should have known that people are always drooling, waiting for something to moralise about. (and anyway people get to make up their own minds about what they should or should not be doing - consider the moral implications of thinking you are the one that know best; frankly, I think it's much less distasteful to be a gossip)

AngelaLans Fri 24-Oct-14 09:20:45

In the end, the teacher could be ill, try to return and relapse, and the children would still be in the same situation. The problem really is in the way the school are dealing with the problem, but they are constrained by the teacher - she has to have her job ready when she is able to work, they cannot replace her if she does not resign. A family is in the process of leaving, and they said they would not be leaving if they knew the teacher was legitimately trying to come back (if there was a good chance she would be back). If there is NO chance she will return (which, if you knew she had no intention to return), then they said they are not willing to stay, given that school has to react as though she might come back. The real point is: how does school balance holding the teacher's job open, while still ensuring a good provision to the children. People have already met with the head, who said he thinks the provision is good enough, and the primary thing is that things are stable as they can be for the children (who knew this supply teacher from a few supply days last year).

AngelaLans Fri 24-Oct-14 09:26:25

Thanks for the replies that mentioned how their school used another employee to cover the position - perhaps that can be broached. Whilst all school years are important, it seems especially bad to have an inexperienced teacher in year 6. The problem seems to be that school thinks the academics are secondary to stability, i.e. that someone the children are familiar with is more important than the teaching, and that the communication has been very poor (school took great pains to avoid answering questions about whether the replacement was qualified, and how much experience they had, to the point of not answering pointed questions, and redirecting the conversation - one parent seems to have found the teacher in question's Linkedin profile, or I think it would still be unknown what the story with the supply teacher was).

Lonecatwithkitten Fri 24-Oct-14 09:31:34

So from the employer side the school are not entitled to ask if she is going to return. They maybe performing sickness management that you may not be aware of.
As an employer if you have covered your employee's sickness and you wish to ensure business continuity when the member of staff returns to work you can deploy them in other similar areas till a time that it is appropriate to return to their own job. I have done this in my business.
If you are not happy with the way the class is being taught take it up with the head with specific examples of where you are not happy. You are purchasing a service if you feel it is not up to scratch then take it up with the service provider.

AngelaLans Fri 24-Oct-14 10:43:17

Thanks, Lonecat. I hadn't considered that they don't need to dismiss a replacement immediately, but could put the regular teacher in another interim role until she would be ready (and they are ready, presumably, taking into account that they might have guaranteed a certain amount of time to a temporary teacher) to resume.

All this has been taken to the head, by a couple of families. He thinks the provision is suitable, in spite of specific complaints. I think they are trying to improve what this teacher is doing, but it is frustrating paying top money for a teacher that is training at work, especially when it is an extremely competent teacher that is on leave.

skylark2 Sat 25-Oct-14 14:43:54

DD had this in year 5 in a state school. The teacher then came back for what coincidentally was exactly the bare minimum of time to "restart the clock" as far as it being treated as the same or a different period of absence went (I think it was two weeks), and was then off for months again.

I was sorry that the teacher was ill and have no doubt that she was ill, but she milked the system to its full extent to the detriment of thirty 10 year olds. I'm afraid there were no regrets from anyone that she resigned. Eventually. After they'd had supply teachers for almost the entire year - no continuity, obviously no homework, zero extension for the pupils who needed it (the SEN kids still had their TA time, but G&T didn't get any)...

AngelaLans Sat 25-Oct-14 15:52:02

Sorry to hear about this, Skylark, but thanks for the info.

That's sort of what we're wondering about - whether there is some minimum time to start the clock again (this teacher was in for 16 days, I think, before relapsing), and how the laws work, such that we would get an idea what to expect in the event things went similarly in our case.

It is definitely to the detriment of the children - although I understand the school can't replace her until she resigns and is at the mercy of the best available supply teacher. I wish there was someone else in the school who could take the class, and some of the young ones who are mostly playing and learning the alphabet got the teacher with less experience. The worry is that year 6 is going to largely be a waste. It's sad to have year 6 go this way. I'm sure you felt the same for your DDs year 5.

Littlefish Sat 25-Oct-14 18:07:50

Your attitude about moving someone from lower down the school up to year 6 is an absolutely ridiculous idea. I am an excellent early years teacher, but would not make a good year 6 teacher. I would far rather my child be taught by someone employed specially to cover in year 6, rather than have someone cover wh does not have the relevant experience.

Anyway - are the younger children less important? Are their early reading and writing skills less important?

I'm sure the school don't want standards in year 6 to drop any more than you do so they will obviously be employing the best person they possibly can.

AngelaLans Sat 25-Oct-14 18:41:40

Yes, well, the year 6 cover has not taught year 6. And some of the KS 1 teachers have. But I guess if you didn't know that it would be an absolutely ridiculous idea.

PotteringAlong Sat 25-Oct-14 18:50:41

If they put someone in her job though she could have a case against the school for constructive dismissal - it has to be open for her to return.

There is a point where if you're not fit to teach you can be dismissed but you're talking a long long time down the road.

AngelaLans Sat 25-Oct-14 18:52:27

>I'm sure the school don't want standards in year 6 to drop any more than you do so they will obviously be employing the best person they possibly can.

The school has employed someone who does not quite have two years teaching experience, has taught only supply, and in fact has taught in three different countries in that time (so short term only), did not do an NQT year, has not taught year 6 and has asked several of the parents fairly basic questions about how to handle their children (like boys whose attention can wander), and has been overheard literally screaming at the children because two children spoke to each other when they weren't supposed to. If this is obviously the best teacher they can employ, then I am wondering whether perhaps there is shortage of experienced year 6 teachers about? What do you think? Is this what one can expect as a replacement when a teacher goes on leave?

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