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Schools urged to remove stigma around sickness absence to stop unwell teachers going to work

Discussion in 'Personal' started by TES_Rosaline, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    The Education Support Partnership is calling on schools to ‘break down outdated perceptions’ around sickness absence to allow teachers to practise self-care and stay at home when they are ill instead of feeling compelled to go to work:

    ‘Almost half of classroom teachers in England "always" feel compelled to go to work even when feeling unwell – compared with just a quarter of workers in other industries, a new study shows.

    The survey, of 1,549 primary and secondary teachers and school leaders in England, also reveals that 57 per cent of senior leaders would always come into work when feeling ill, and 42 per cent of staff working in other roles (such as TAs and learning mentors) would do the same.

    This compares with just 16 per cent of staff in the medical and health services sector who said they would come into work when feeling unwell through similar low-level ailments, and 19 per cent of workers in the IT and telecommunications sector.’


    What are your views about the results of the study? Do you think school leaders will listen and remove the stigma around sickness absences?
  2. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    Teachers go in when unwell for a number of reasons. The first is guilt................because they are made to feel guilty. Guilty for not being there for students. Guilty for other staff having to cover. Guilty for supply costing money. Some years ago the unions negotiated no cover to be set if you are ill, but that has been eroded and you are expected to set work even if you've been up all night vomiting and sat on the loo! Another reason is that it is often easier to sit your class in front of a video than set work and be made to feel guilty as above.
    It's about time teachers were treated better over sickness. None of us want to be ill, but being off sick feeling ill, guilty and trying to set cover work, or dragging yourself in sick, feeling 5h1te and potentially spreading the germs is not the way to treat illness.
  3. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    No, not at all.

    I've heard management brag about how they still get in while unwell. If you are able to sit in a quiet office and do some dull but worthy tasks it's a very different day to a no compromise full timetable with difficult classes. Being a classroom teacher means you can't still function so effectively while ill, less intense teaching jobs mean you can to a greater degree.

    I've taken days off ill dependent on my t/t. If I was feeling that bad on another day, I know I could cope and I'd have gone in, but on the hardest day of the week I couldn't.

    This is another factor. The last thing you need if ill is to get up early and scrabble around trying to set work based amongst other things on the memory of where sets of books might be, knowing that those books may not make it into your room on time, and assuming you have a copy at home to set the work in the first place. Then either a long phone call or email to explain it all. If you're ill, you need to sleep to recover, especially after a bad night. Funnily enough, those who don't teach so much don't have to do this so much.

    Teaching is somewhat unusual in the regard that work in the form of classes needing to be taught can't just be deferred or easily picked up by others as it can in some sectors. Mainly though I think the toxic workplace culture that prevails everywhere to some degree presided over by those less exposed to its effects will mean nothing will change.
  4. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    For MOST of my career, it generally was the case that people would go in when ill, but that they'd have an 'easy' day using textbooks/videos, so admittedly they wouldn't be teaching very well, but most agreed that one or two poor lessons a year would not adversely affect a class used to good teaching. Now, with all the extras expected, and the fact that SLT with limited teaching experience can 'observe' or 'learning walk' with no notice, it doesn't surprise me that there are more teachers who will take the time off.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  5. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    More importantly schools also need to break outdated perceptions around work related stress and it should be treated in line with physical illness. Teachers should not have to be resigning due to stress. We wouldn't resign due to asthma for example. So why are we forced to resign due to illness caused by stress? We do, as a collective, need to speak up about this and stop walking away. Easier said than done, I know, but it is costing people their careers.
  6. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Given that supply teachers (or cover supervisors) are in themselves a lottery as to the quality of their teaching, never mind the fact that children will always play up for them. Either way causing SLT to leave their nice, comfy offices.

    So the ill have to come in, just to spare the extra effort that their absence entails.
    agathamorse, Laphroig and BelleDuJour like this.
  7. maggie m

    maggie m Lead commenter

    I dragged myself back to work a couple of weeks ago when I should gave had more time off. I had run out of ideas for cover for my year 11's. We have no up to date textbooks so everything is worksheets . Getting up to phone in by 7 when feeling terrible is one of the many reasons this year will be my last.
    agathamorse, Sally006 and BelleDuJour like this.
  8. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Here's where the other guilt comes from, forcing the HoD and/or Assistant HoD to do the job they're paid for. Of course they're seriously over-worked so the guilt is not misplaced but you need to be able to see how the last lesson went to be able to plan the next one.
  9. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

  10. bajan

    bajan Occasional commenter

    And why were you setting cover when you were ill? It is not your fault the school has no up to date text books.
  11. maggie m

    maggie m Lead commenter

    Very true but setting cover is an expectation at the place I work. Wrong but there it is. I did work in one place that was far more organised. When we wrote the schemes of work we included a couple of cover lessons for each topic. When phoning in sick all staff needed to do was say for example year 10 topic B3 and the cover lesson was sorted.
    agathamorse likes this.
  12. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    The only time I was signed off for more than a day or two was when the GP signed me off for a fortnight. That it was the Wimbledon fortnight and I lived quite close to Wimbledon raised more than a few eyebrows back at the ranch, but I can't stand bloody tennis.

    I made the mistake of soldiering on despite a cold three weeks ago and ended up with no voice for nearly a week, and a voice is somewhat essential to my work. I still haven't fully recovered, and I should have known better as I'm self-employed now. Old habits die hard I suppose.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  13. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    A headteacher I once worked for criticised me for being ill, saying that if I went to apply for another job, he “wouldn’t be able to say I had a good attendance record”. This came a matter of months after a family bereavement, followed by some emergency surgery which meant being signed off for weeks.

    The next time I was ill with something less major, I felt so worried I struggled in when I wasn’t really well enough. Sure enough, within the week, I was off again, as the illness quickly returned. My line manager demanded a meeting with the head and told him that it was HIS fault because he’d made me feel so guilty that I’d come back too soon. She was like a lioness, and after that he at least pretended to staff that we should take time off to get ourselves well.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  14. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    But it's our faults because we have some silly outdated notion that we are human when in actual fact we are a human resource.
    agathamorse and JohnJCazorla like this.
  15. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    The world went t1t5 up when Personel was replaced by Human Resources (or Human Remains).
    agathamorse and nizebaby like this.
  16. nizebaby

    nizebaby Star commenter

    My boss told us that it was our duty to look after ourselves so that we didn't get ill!
    JohnJCazorla and agathamorse like this.

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