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Absent GCSE teacher

(22 Posts)
EugenieG Thu 02-Nov-17 09:06:31

My DS, yr 10, has a Teacher X as his form tutor and for a GCSE subject. In theory the form class should see X every day for registration (x2) and a bit of pastoral time; DS should also see X for 5 hours ever fortnight.

Teacher X has been absent for roughly a third of the the GCSE classes in this first half of the autumn term - the kids are counting X's absences. As well as being absent as a form tutor of course.

Other teachers fill in for registration and for the GCSE classes, but these are rarely done by a subject specialist - often by the school's cover staff who do not know the subject.

I know X is a person with a life of their own, I'm not privy to that and nor should I be. They might be going through a difficult time in their life requiring lots of time off etc. But where do you draw the line?

My DS and many classmates are unhappy about the lack of teaching and learning in their GCSE subject. Apparently other kids (and their parents) have complained to the HOY about this - I don't know if that's the way to go. Should I add my voice to this wave of complaints? Is there any point, will our opinions have any influence I wonder?

Also, DS had teacher X a few years ago and didn't think X was a good teacher (X and another teacher shared the class for the subject) especially compared to the parallel teacher.

WWYD? What can I do? It's not really a subject we can muddle along with at home. The outside school alternative would be hiring a tutor, too expensive for us.

LadyinCement Thu 02-Nov-17 09:12:17

I would complain. Most vociferously.

Many years ago one of my A Level teachers went off sick in the first term. She was supposed to return but didn't - at all. The school didn't supply anyone else (because with sickness I suppose they have to presume the teacher will return) but it led to the whole class doing very badly. Some didn't get into their chosen universities. Back in those days parents didn't contact the school - ever. You just had to suck it up. But how I wish someone had supported us.

Your ds's school should do something. If not I really would hire a tutor unless it's absolutely out of the question. Would there be another pupil or two able to share with your ds in order to cut the cost?

Rudgie47 Thu 02-Nov-17 09:19:15

I'd go in to see them and ask what they are going to do about it as things cant go on like this.Make an appointment as you have more chance of been taken seriously.
My friend had this with her GCSE Maths and got an unclassified as did a lot of her friends or very low grades. Why cant the school put on some extra support with a subject specialist for the class?
If nothing changes I'd be having a word with your M.P, they will do something then I can assure you.

LadyinCement Thu 02-Nov-17 09:28:18

Also the Subject Head should be the first port of call. If they can't answer you satisfactorily then move on to the member of the leadership team in charge of academic stuff. That sort of information should be on the website. The Head of Year is really in charge of pastoral issues and this is an academic matter.

Definitely get in touch with the school and I agree with Rudgie47 that anything in writing - email perhaps at first - is worth more than a phone call.

BubblesBuddy Thu 02-Nov-17 12:10:59

Schools do have insurance policies to cover situations like this and these fund a supply teacher after a certain length of absence. If a teacher is sick, and there is no obvious date for return, then they really must get in a supply teacher - assuming they can find one of course. In these days of teacher shortages, managing absence is a huge problem for schools and pupils alike. I would be surprised if the school was not trying to do something about it and however much peopkecmpain, its difficult to drum up a suitable teacher if there is not one. They could lookout rejigging the timetable for other teachers/lessons but this obviously is only a temporary fix and makes the other children/parents unhappy.

nocampinghere Thu 02-Nov-17 12:12:48

I had this with my A levels too. some parents did complain but most just got a tutor. It didn't occur to my parents, they "trusted" the school hmm

hence a big difference in results between those who did well because they had a tutor and those that muddled along with the text book themselves.

is it a subject you can drop? or do you really need to sit the GCSE? If the latter and no luck with the school could you find a tutor and share the cost amongst a group of you?

nocampinghere Thu 02-Nov-17 12:14:04

No matter how difficult it is to find a supply teacher, they should be prioritisting the GCSE classes. Another subject specialist teacher should be moved to cover it and a supply used for lower years.

YoureAllABunchOfBastards Thu 02-Nov-17 12:14:47

A lot depends on the subject - some specialist supply is ok but some is a bugger to find.

Insurance wise, it only kicks in after about four weeks of continuous absence.

Most schools now are so stretched for staff that there is little to no capacity in departments to cover for absent colleagues by rejigging timetables - and of course staff should not be covering for planned or long term absences

Derekmorganwasinmybed Thu 02-Nov-17 12:16:30

My dd year 11 is having a similar problem,she's had 4 maths teachers since September

gillybeanz Thu 02-Nov-17 12:19:27

This happened at both my ds's schools for GCSE, if the school won't pay for a specialist cover teacher, they just have to do it themselves at home.
Not ideal but it's the way it is.
Parents complained all the time but nothing was done as they could only afford general cover.

catslife Thu 02-Nov-17 13:53:28

As others have said most schools only employ specialist supply teachers for continuous absence, not if it's the sort of absence that's the odd day or two off even if that's on a regular basis.
You need to check with the HOD, but it could be that the cover supervisor is using resources prepared either by the teacher themselves or the department. So they may actually be covering the same work as pupils in different classes where the teacher is present.
So it may not be as bad as you think.

EugenieG Thu 02-Nov-17 15:44:02

Thanks for all the input, you've spurred me on to at least write an email in the first instance. Will start with HOD and see what kind of response we get. Thanks everyone.

Kez100 Thu 02-Nov-17 15:53:51

Schools don't necessarily have insurance. It's expensive. Doesn't always cover and many, with tightening budgets, don't pay for insurance but hope the saving can be used on supply and not exceed the insurance costs. Not saying thats right but it definitely happens and I am guessing, but with budgets so bad now, I reckon its even more likely.

My children both had this with GCSE class. It was extraordinarily frustrating although they both self taught and actually did quite well and learned about self study for sixth form - although I am not advocating it. If you fight but find you are on a hiding to nothing its the only option as your children can't put on a future work reference "teacher absent for most of year 11" and time is now flying

Good luck with the fight.

Pengggwn Thu 02-Nov-17 20:16:54

You certainly can ask about it but they will probably refuse to disclose anything. As you say it is confidential. If the teacher triggers absence procedures they can eventually be fired, but other than that...? Unlikely to be very much they can do, unless they can move the teacher off GCSE, and depending on the teacher's situation that could eventually lead to a constructive dismissal issue, as illness isn't the teacher's fault.

EugenieG Thu 02-Nov-17 20:27:25

@Pengggwn you're right of course. I don't really want to know what's keeping the teacher off, it's none of my business. And I agree that illness isn't a fault. I'm aware that it's incredibly difficult to "get rid" of teachers, that's not my aim or motive.

My concern is how the school copes with the frequent absences and what they'll do to mitigate the lack of teaching.

Pengggwn Thu 02-Nov-17 20:32:04

EugenieG

Well, I completely understand that, but the answer is probably that they are doing what is within their power and budget to do: setting cover, putting cover supervisors or supply in place.

The other option would be to try to redistribute the students in that class to other groups, but that would only work in a core subject (8 classes) if the classes were of 20-odd students.

CauliflowerSqueeze Thu 02-Nov-17 20:33:27

Good supply teachers are like hens’ teeth.

Good supply teachers in a specific subject area, available in your area, right now, are unlikely to be available.

The school will be doing its best to look.
The only thing they can do is to try and share that timetable with other teachers in the department, meaning of course that other classes would then be left with no teacher. There’s no easy way out.

BubblesBuddy Thu 02-Nov-17 20:37:54

Staff can certainly have contracts ended if they are unfit to do the job. It usually goes through the occupational health doctors but it is not constructive dismissal if properly handled. It’s obviously not something that can be done quickly though. A teacher being absent really is not fair on children so a compromise has to be reached.

It is extremely short sighted to go without insurance. It is risking the education of the children and they should be a priority. Yes, it does usually cover longer absences because costs reduce if it kicks in after several weeks. However long absences are the most difficult for the school to manage and the children suffer most in this scenario.

Pengggwn Thu 02-Nov-17 20:42:38

BubblesBuddy

Once it gets to that stage, yes. But you do have to go through the correct processes, which takes time.

woodlands01 Fri 03-Nov-17 20:09:54

I spent many years in a school that failed to recruit Maths teachers. In my last 2 years this was my GCSE cycle. I was the only specialist Maths teacher. There were 3 classes per year group (small school). Each class had 3 lessons per week - I rotated between the classes teaching each class once per week and their other 2 lesson were covered by cover supervisors or supply teachers. At least each class got one lesson taught by a specialist each week and were supposed to 'consolidate' their knowledge through practice (that I set through cover work ) in the other 2 lessons. This was a bloody nightmare. I can see why schools don't ask their teacher to do this - it antagonizes staff and gives them no sense of commitment to a class. The only reason I agreed to it was that in my performance management I refused to accept responsibility for any results....... and had union representation to support me in this.

When my son had no specialist Maths teacher for 2 terms in his school - I went in and discussed this with the Head of Dept. I asked that specialist teachers be 'shared' across classes so that no one class was penalized by long term absence (stress: can take upto a year to get rid of teacher and then no guarantee the schools can recruit some-one to replace them). I was successful but only because I said I would take it to the head teacher as I felt the class was being disadvantaged.

Yes - maybe the school thinks they are doing the best but there are sometimes other solutions. Are there more than one class in this GCSE option - can the teacher be 'shared'? This may seem a daunting argument to put forward but if you talk about one set of students not being dis-advantaged against another than maybe it would work?

EugenieG Sat 04-Nov-17 00:28:31

I've had a response from school saying the teacher X is now back, they're hoping to avoid further absences and will put in place some special measures to help kids catch up (huh??hmm)

DS and I will give it a few weeks to see what these measures will be and go from there. There is a parallel GCSE class so we might pursue that idea of sharing subject teachers, but DS can't be moved into that class due to options and timetabling.

Thanks all for sharing your wisdom.

vlooby Sat 04-Nov-17 00:44:32

As a HOD myself, just remember they probably are doing everything logically possible to help, but funding, timetabling etc might get in the way. Probably also depends on the subject to some extent. Fingers crossed for you something is in place soon.

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