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Teacher sickness rates at dds' school - how can I find out more?

(29 Posts)
mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 08:02:33

Both dds are at the same school and are constantly coming home saying "we missed x lessons today because the teacher was ill".

DD1 is in her GCSE year, and was waiting for a draft of a vital piece of coursework back on Friday so that she could work on it over half-term. But then the teacher reported sick on Friday so dd hasn't had the essay back to work on. DD thinks he had a ski-ing holiday booked this half term - I've asked her to look out for panda eyes and to ask him if he went away when they go back! Of course it could be genuine illness, but in my company we always keep an eye on people who take sick leave either just before or just after annual leave.

I was already concerned about this particular teacher's marking because he has been marking her essays very critically without explaining what he wants/expects.

In a couple of instances, he has marked her down, she has changed it, then he's asked her to put the same thing back in. She's doing very well in other subjects - A's for her essays in English and Drama for example, so she has a good grasp of essay-writing elsewhere.

So, I'm going to see the headteacher after half term to discuss this particular teacher - the essay marking, and to say I was concerned that she didn't have the coursework back to work on.

Anyway, back to my OP. DD1 will need to decide whether to stay at this school or move to another one, which has an excellent reputation and results, for A'levels. We'll go to both sixth form evenings.

I'd like to compare the teacher sickness ratios at both schools, and perhaps at a third local school which has a good reputation - something I know I will be able to request via Freedom of Information. This would of course be anonymised - not about individuals, but overall rates of sickness,

But it would be helpful before I put in the FOI request to know how schools collate sickness absence information - or indeed if it is the school itself which does this, or if it is held by the education authority?

It may be that dds existing school is average and it's my perception that the sickness rates are high - it is very good in other ways.

Anyone out there know how this sort of information is collated and held?

corblimeymadam Mon 16-Feb-09 08:09:15

Message withdrawn

Feenie Mon 16-Feb-09 08:39:14

Your marking issues sound serious and warrant further discussion, perhaps with the teacher concerned as a first port of call, moving on to the Head if you aren't satisfied.

"Anyone out there know how this sort of information is collated and held?"

This kind of information is held by the Personel dpt of the LEA, and you would have no legal right whatsoever to have any access to it.

Feenie Mon 16-Feb-09 08:40:05

personnel. Damn my ropey keyboard blush

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 08:43:52

I believe I would have a legal right for overall statistics - not personal information about individuals - under the Freedom of Information Act.

Schools are public bodies and are governed by the FOI (the FOI is something I've used through my job).

So I do intend putting in an FOI request, but it's always useful to have an understanding of what sort of format the information being held takes - for instance, do LEAs compare sickness rates between schools themselves? I'll probably phone the LEA first and ask them this.

Feenie Mon 16-Feb-09 08:46:14

I am very interested in what they might say - I honestly think you will get nowhere with this request though! Let us know smile

roisin Mon 16-Feb-09 08:47:50

You could try emailing the LEA. I know there are occasionally articles in our paper about teachers' attendance rates, so the LEA must have them.

And nowadays with data protection and all that, whenever I've asked the LEA for any statistics, they've always been happy to provide them.

You are right to be concerned. Teacher absence has a massive impact on education. At our place it's not just sickness, they are also always off on endless endless courses and so on.

I think it is a fascinating measure, and Ofsted should include it in their reports grin

edam Mon 16-Feb-09 08:50:57

Good luck with the FOI request, it's a fascinating idea. And quite right, too - LAs publish pupil absence rates, why not staff?

edam Mon 16-Feb-09 08:51:56

You could also get your councillor and MP on side - not sure how long FOI requests take but I know from government examples there are opportunities for organisations to stall.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 08:52:37

Actually I think I would get the information - I just found a similar request which went to Derby council about employees' sickness rates, and they supplied it - - so it would be impossible for another authority to refuse to supply this information - although I would have to be prepared to appeal to the information commissioner if the schools or LEA refused.

scienceteacher Mon 16-Feb-09 08:52:51

I have no idea how you get the answers you are looking for, mamhaf, but you are right to be concerned.

High absence rates can tell a lot about the working environment of the school, and general stress levels of the teachers (which compound when there are absent colleagues).

One of the things to ask about sixth form classes is how they cover staff absences. It is unlikely they will provide cover and just leave the students work to take away without getting any teaching.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 08:53:57

Edam - organisations have a maximum of 20 working days to respond and there are very limited reasons why they could say no.

I'll let you know how I get on.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 08:55:00

Thanks scienceteacher, that's a really good tip. Any other thoughts about questions to ask at the sixth form evening, especially at the school we're not familiar with?

Feenie Mon 16-Feb-09 09:11:08

The figures given were for all the people who work for the authority - including teaching assistants, caretakers, dinner ladies, administrators, advisors, cleaners, etc, etc. I imagine it would be much harder to get hold of figures which just include teachers.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 09:16:37

Yes Feenie, but the schools would probably hold their own information, and are also subject to might take some digging.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 09:16:37

Yes Feenie, but the schools would probably hold their own information, and are also subject to might take some digging.

Feenie Mon 16-Feb-09 09:22:21

But why would the school isolate their figures to teaching staff? I presume their figures, if kept, would represent all their employees also.

wotulookinat Mon 16-Feb-09 09:33:15

If you are given some figures, they might not be a true reflection of what is going on. I'm a teacher, and I have been off sick for just over a year. In a small school, that would show as a massive percentage, but I'm waiting for the LEA to end my contract and they are dragging their feet about it.
Since I have been gone, I believe a long-term supply teacher has been working there.

Feenie Mon 16-Feb-09 09:37:01

That's true - we are a small school also, but have one teacher with secondary cancer who is off for surgery every now and again for long periods of time. sad She is outstanding when she is there, but no doubt she would dent our very good sickness record massively.

SueW Mon 16-Feb-09 10:03:40

I feel for your DD and understand your concerns. When I was in sixth form in the mid-80s there was a high rate of teacher absence for various reasons but mostly strikes and we were left to get on with it, lots of 'study' periods. It left me feeling quite dispirited.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 13:40:51

I will ask for absence rates of teachers only - but it's a good point about it not necessarily being a true reflection.

It's the number of short-term absences that worry me - not just for sickness, but for courses, when the pupils seem to be left to their own devices. It's something I will discuss with the head teacher.

MaureenMLove Mon 16-Feb-09 14:41:45

I'm in charge of logging absences at a secondary school. From the school records pov, basically a teacher either phones me to tell me they are going to be off or I have had prior knowledge of a planned day off for a teacher. I mark them down, under different codes, depending on the reason. I.e, sick, inset, childcare issues, school trip etc. The HR department also wants to know, in as much detail as possible, why a teacher is off sick. It's not suffient to just say, 'I've got a cold'. Obviously, they don't need to tell me, sometimes it's personal, but if they don't, HR calls them during the first day of sickness, for a definate reason.

wotulookinat Mon 16-Feb-09 15:19:11

Mamhaf, I think you should be more concerned about the fact that children are left to their own devices. A teacher going on a course is beneficial as they get to expand their skills and knowledge. Teachers, like everyone, get sick or have personal incidents that need dealing with. In any such event, a supply teacher or another teacher should be their to cover the lesson. I fully understand that in most cases this means that the lesson does not go as planned, but it's better than nothing.

mamhaf Mon 16-Feb-09 21:39:24

Yes, I agree wotulookinat teachers need to keep up-to-date with training...and dds don't necessarily give us a true reflection of where the teachers are - often they don't know if the teacher is sick or on a course.

So, I'd like to find out the actual figures and compare those with other schools in the area.

I'll start keeping a diary of how many lessons they say they're missing - it does seem like a lot, and it is Friday's lack of a history teacher which is really irking me because of the other problems and the fact dd1 didn't get her coursework back to tackle over half term - especially if he then turned out to have gone on holiday.

fizzbuzz Tue 17-Feb-09 20:37:42

I cannot imagine any teacher in any school, being allowed to take a day off before a school holiday, it is just not done...simple as that.

The teacher must be ill, or other personal problem.

All schools have pretty high staff sickness rates ime, as it is such a demanding and wearing job.When I worked in a desk job, it was much easier to go in feeling ill, as you could sit down all day, and switch off sometimes if you needed to. You just can't do that in teaching....

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