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Teacher - always absent for medical reasons (pregnancy)

(84 Posts)
121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:09:14

I'm trying to understand how other schools deal with absence for medical reasons as I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with my kids school over this.

Last year DD1's teacher was pregnant. In the term before she went on mat leave she was barely in (I'd say 2 weeks max over the whole term). The school dealt with this by splitting the class up and over-filling the other class in the year group and the year below (to the point my DD was commenting she was sick of sitting on the carpet when there was not enough tables and chairs...) Once teacher went on mat. leave they covered her position by depriving another year group of a teacher (so another class having to deal with change mid-way through the year).

This year, 3 days after the start of the new school year there was another pregnancy drop out, this time in DD2's year (I don't live in the UK and here, by law, pregnant women cannot work a) until they have blood tests proving immunity to certain things and b) if the government says the risk of certain viruses, eg: flu, is too high - as happened last year).

Yet again the school have split up the class without a teacher and overfilled the two remaining classes in the year group. We have had no timetable for this year for DD2 and signs the teacher is way too busy (one reading book home so far). Next week marks half way through this half term and we are in a state of stasis regarding how the year group will be staffed for the year.

I'm getting the usual - she's pregnant it's the law, what can we do, from the school - but surely there are other ways to deal with absences for medical/personal reasons? Using other available staff at the school who have free periods? Ensuring the school is staffed enough for this suggested method? Hiring supply staff?

I should say this is a private school - £10k to join and £5k per term - I'm not talking about a head teacher having to cope with austerity cuts.

Please could you share how your schools deal with staff absence for any medical conditions (or perhaps compassionate) which will be ongoing over a period of months.

I feel sorry for the remaining staff and for the kids being messed around in this way. Not to mention furious about being short-changed over the service we are paying for.


OP’s posts: |
user1471134011 Sun 24-Sep-17 09:11:06

Don your hard hat OP

121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:14:11


OP’s posts: |
PrincessHairyMclary Sun 24-Sep-17 09:16:33

As far as I know in state schools in the UK if the teacher is off for a known or long term period of absence then another qualified teacher is brought in to lead the class. If it is short term (less than 3 days I think) or unexpected emergency then a TA or other teachers on non-contact time might be asked to cover.

As your children go to an overseas private school not sure how this info will help. Can you not move them to a different school if you are that unhappy with it, or is it the normal way of dealing with things in the country you are in?

rebelnotaslave Sun 24-Sep-17 09:17:12

I think we should replace teachers with robots. Then these pesky women women wouldn't get pregnant and ill all the time.

Also they wouldn't need their "free" time to mark, plan lessons etc. You know teachers don't sit twiddling their thumbs in "free" lessons don't you?

Schools usually cover short term absence like you describe, perhaps day to day supply or splitting classes. Usually exam classes get current staff and others get supply. They may have staff employed as cover staff. If you don't know exactly how long they'll be off then you can't get temporary cover.

DonkeyOaty Sun 24-Sep-17 09:17:26

What does your contract say about the number of children taught per teacher?

PurpleDaisies Sun 24-Sep-17 09:18:36

Using other available staff at the school who have free periods? Ensuring the school is staffed enough for this suggested method? Hiring supply staff?

You can't use staff on their free periods. "Free" periods are there for planning, marking and data recording, not sitting around on your arse drinking tea.

We get supply in for teacher absence.

121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:21:36

I would move them if I could - it's the lack of choice that means I'm stuck with this. I'm trying to relocate back to the UK and leave DH working here in order to get away from this but that won't happen for another school year.

That information is still helpful - thank-you. It shows how other schools staff themselves so that there are TAs and or teachers with non-contact time available to help. Staff absence is a fact of life in any organisation and should be planned for. I can understand needing to overfill classes for a day or so in an 'emergency' but for weeks and months on end? There must be a better way. I'm pretty sure that's not what all schools do.

OP’s posts: |
SummerRains Sun 24-Sep-17 09:21:39

So how many children are in a class when they put them together? If the law is such then I imagine every school has the same issues in your country. In the Uk classes are often 30 children normally in infants.

I guess your choices are to: speak to someone at the school - which may not change anything or find another school and hope there are fewer pregnancies or ensure they have a poloicy for covering staff you are happy with?

LegoCaltrops Sun 24-Sep-17 09:23:36

But the OP doesn't seem to be complaining about the teachers getting pregnant. She's unhappy about the school's apparent inability to cover for employee absence without negatively impacting on their remaining staff, or on the students. Which seems to be a valid point.

Norestformrz Sun 24-Sep-17 09:24:14

We employ a temporary member of staff to teach the class until the permanent teacher returns. For medical appointments we employ a supply teacher to cover the class if it's half a day or more and cover with existing staff if it's less.

GreenTulips Sun 24-Sep-17 09:24:15

Generally they have a very short list of supply teachers who know the school and children. So they aren't complete strangers.

Very rarely a TA or split class if they are off unexpectedly

ricepolo Sun 24-Sep-17 09:24:23

Not sure why you're being told to expect grief: your kids are suffering and you're not getting what you paid for. I'd be cross too.

My children attend private school and if this happened I'd be having it out with the head. Probably with a lot of other parents.

You need to put pressure on the head to do something, so I'd get together with other parents to present a united front.

If nothing else works then you may need to vote (or threaten to) with your feet and move them.

121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:24:27

They say max 20 to a class. Both of my examples made classes over 20. They do not have any teaching assistants in the year groups my DDs are in.

Would teachers on free periods never provide cover, even on a temporary basis? So remaining teaching staff get 10+ more unfamiliar kids in their lessons all day every day? Doesn't seem fair to them either!

OP’s posts: |
insancerre Sun 24-Sep-17 09:24:44

Suggest to the school that they only employ men or unmarried women of a certain age

GruffaloPants Sun 24-Sep-17 09:25:09

At our school (state school) they had a long-term locum when the teacher was off with pregnancy-related illness. The locum then covered the mat leave too.

I don't think you are being unreasonable in expecting the school to have a better plan than "wing it". Particularly as you say they shouldn't be too financially constrained.

junebirthdaygirl Sun 24-Sep-17 09:26:17

In lreland and a substitute reacher is brought in after one day absent. For maternity lwave a completely new teacher is brought in to cover the whole time so becomes the class teacher for that time.

121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:26:56

I can't move them though - local school are foreign language, the other international schools are too far away for me to get them to.

The head has already given me the 'teacher is pregnant, we're waiting for her to be fit to work' line - but this dragged out over the whole pregnancy last year!

OP’s posts: |
Piratesandpants Sun 24-Sep-17 09:28:59

Have you actually spoken to the school about cover arrangements? You mention they've said she's pregnant, law etc but that sounds like a strange conversation. You don't need to discuss her pregnancy, just the cover arrangement.

123fushia Sun 24-Sep-17 09:30:03

I teach in a
LEA primary school and our head would never allow such staffing issues. The children's learning is bound to be seriously affected in your school. The head should work to find a structure to address the cycle of issues here. The more that I read about private schools on here, the prouder I am of the care, high level of achievement and exceptionally hard working teachers in my school.

121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:30:10

Suggest to the school that they only employ men or unmarried women of a certain age hmm helpful....

I'm not complaining about the pregnancy - as I have stated, staff absence is a fact of life, particularly when a large number of primary teachers are women of child bearing age. It is a foreseeable staffing issue that the school should make provision for - not expect remaining staff and kids to suffer as a result.

I'm trying to get ideas of HOW they could/should be handling it.

OP’s posts: |
TvTan Sun 24-Sep-17 09:31:08

I had this in my job when I was PG. Not a teacher but a trainer in the private sector (call centre ugh) I was very sick all through and had quite a bit of time off.
During that time no one picked up my work so I had people on performance plans who never got their calls listenened to therefore remained on plans longer and missed out on bonusses.
Of course, staff blamed me, had one of them screamed at me before pregnancy was announced. HR did nothing, since he apologised when I told him why I'd been off. My employer also blamed me because I was made redundant the day I gave birth. New role with slightly diff job description.

It's up to the employer to cover this. As you know OP the teacher can't help pregnancy illness. Suppose it's very common for people to get mad at it.

user789653241 Sun 24-Sep-17 09:31:12

In my native country, there are 30+ children in the class with 1 teacher and no ta. Still get pretty good results.
But since you are at fee paying school, you must be able to demand proper supply teacher while class teacher is off?

121onandon Sun 24-Sep-17 09:35:46

Yes I spoke to the school with last year's issue and this.

This year's one went something like:
Me: how are you going to deal with ensuring we have enough teachers given Miss X has been off for 2 weeks now and the classes are overfilled, things are in stasis. This dragged out over a whole term when it happened last ear.
Head: This is not a problem with ‘staff absence’ as you suggest. Legally, we cannot have a member of staff on site unless they have been passed as ‘fit for work during pregnancy’, such events are impossible to legislate for. As soon as we can, either by the return of Miss X, or by the employment of a new member of staff, we will return to 3 classes. basically put up with it until she comes back, then put up with it again when they flu season hits or if she has other pregnancy complications - unless she's out for good they'll merge the classes whenever she is off.

OP’s posts: |
rebelnotaslave Sun 24-Sep-17 09:42:20

Well you did describe "another pregnancy drop out"

Teachers have far too much to do even with their frees. Covering a class means taking even more work home. No substitute teachers should be brought in to cover.

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