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setting cover work while off sick

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by hey_miss, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. From what you've posted, it sounds like you're referring to an irregular illness where a teacher needs to phone in to say they are ill at the time, as opposed to an ongoing situation where the teacher wouldn't need to phone in every day (and would most likely have a medical certificate stating they're unfit for work). The two are different circumstances & would elicit different expectations.

    Are you referring to a longer term illness, or just the day-to-day kind? If you're physically/mentally not capable of supplying cover lessons, then wouldn't your medical certificate state that? Is there anything about long/short term illnesses in your contract/working conditions? You could certainly contact your union to find out - they could probably give more accurate advice on your specific case.
  2. I'm a one person department in secondary, so it can be very difficult for other people to set work for my classes when I'm off sick. I've got folders prepared of cover work which complement my schemes of work, e.g. revision, context activities that are already photocopied with the instructions stuck on the front of the folder. There is also a tick list to show which classes have done which folders, it means that when I phone in sick, I don't have to worry - someone just goes to my timetable and gets the relevant folders out - this includes relevant work for GCSE and when I used to teach A-Level - relevant A-Level work as well. When I worked in a bigger department, we still did this, everyone prepared folders for units and we put them as a central resource as it meant that no one had to worry about setting cover as it's the last thing you want to think about when you phone in at 7am. When you got back, it was your responsbility to check the folder and make sure that there were enough copies of any worksheets left before putting the folders back. I've got enough resouces to cover for two weeks if necessary.
  3. The problem with this viewpoint, and the views of others on this thread is this notion of "It would be nice if you did, but you don't have to". It's woolly situations like this that turn into expectations and black marks when you don't! The OP was gong to take up this issue. I say it needs a hard and fast rule. If you are ill you can't be expected to set work and you shouldn't. If you do, you are not paying your colleagues any favours, because when it's their turn they, in turn, will be expected to set work. There should be other systems in place to provide cover work, as mentioned above.
  4. ilovesooty

    ilovesooty Star commenter

    Absolutely. The same goes for doing displays, collecting money etc, imo.
  5. It's ridiculous, in other jobs if you are off sick, you are off sick! I know of colleagues who have driven in early in the morning to set cover work even though they are feeling dire, just because of the expectation that is upon them. Workers in other industries would tell employers where to go. We as teachers seem to accept and be fearful of this control that exists. Well done for this challenging this!
  6. Batsheep

    Batsheep New commenter

    I've been stung by that one from the other side- last minute cover for a Y9 RE/PSHE lesson with only an umlabelled DVD found on the absent teacher's desk for Period 1. No idea whether it was full of willies or women in veils. I bottled it and made something up of my own. It tuned out afterwards it was about the 10 commandments but I didn't feel up to just putting in on with Y9 and taking what came.
  7. ilovesooty

    ilovesooty Star commenter

    While I agree wholeheartedly in general with your post, that isn't always true. If I'm off sick, I'm expected to get my work covered by a colleague if at all possible, and if I'm due to see a client/outside agency on outreach I'm also expected to contact them to rearrange all the appointments. If I were genuinely too ill to do this work would try to do it for me, but in general we're expected to do it ourselves if we can.

  8. In every school I have worked in we are expected to. I have always done so without problem bar on experience in my last school where I was severely ill with a migraine- had blurred vision and seeing spots etc so I called my then HoD to ask him to set it for me to which he replied No and that it was my job. I later challenged him on this (I was an NQT at the time) stating that it was one instance and I was so ill etc and got back a huge stinking email in which he attacked me personally, professionally and insuated far worse things.
    Since then I have been meticulous about emailing in work or if too ill to do that much I text my parallel teacher the work and keep a copy of the text for reference should I need it. I also always state on the absence line who I have left details of cover with. Once bitten twice shy etc.
    I dont think teachers should have to- I think it would be far better if in primary a supply used the plans and in secondary if each dept created a bank of stand alone resources a colleague to dip into when needed to cover absences. I have worked in both primary and secondary and dont think there is any reason for teachers calling in setting work when sometimes its not taught anyway and if so you end up redoing it your way and when you are ill you are ill.
  9. What happens if you're a PE teacher, and your classroom is the field?
  10. This is why I think a "bank" of stand alone lessons should be ready by each dept so a dept colleague can pull out something appropriate. It is very rare in my experience for a PE teacher to be covered by another PE specialist. In schools I have worked in they end up in a classroom with a teacher for cover.
    Couldnt they do a lesson on muscles in the body, technique for sports, healthy eating and fitness?
    Simple stand alone stuff they can get on with that feeds into the subject.
  11. When I covered PE lessons I was told to referee the students doing the sports and was given a whistle. It meant that I was uncomfortable in control of a class of pupils doing a practical lesson in a discipline I have no training in, and that I could not get on with my work as I had to watch them. I certainly would not expect a cover teacher to carry out one of my science practicals if I was away. They get sit down work. I hated PE covers. Luckily I haven't got any PE covers at my current school. Only sit down lessons.
  12. Thanks for the replies.
    the background is this:
    I am the union rep and one busybee in my dept is saying if you're off you should set cover. i'm happy to say 'no' and laugh at him when he insists but it's those who don't feel they can refuse who i'd like to support.
    if you're off ill then you are too ill to work...i agree with this.
    interesting other point made too...that those who do it to be helpful can often undermine the people who are unable to or chose not to. typical in my school...ho hum.

    thanks again.

  13. I work in FE and found that it depends on the circumstances.
    Firstly, all teachers are responsible for setting their own work and even fill in the cover slip with instructions on it to be given to the cover teacher BUT at my current college, we take a common sense approach:
    If we know that we're going to be absent for a while (e.g. a doctor's appointment), we leave work and instructions for the students to do. If we don't, we usually do so but are not expected to if we're ill because we have a long term condition or day to day sickness, like a stomach bug (we're asked to set work, but if we can't, that's understood-no pressure and the Subject Leader takes responsibility for the work set in this case-we're also left alone when sick-). Previous colleges that I've worked in have been the same, except for one in which I had a bad stomach bug and kept being sick and the college phoned back after my mum had reported my sickness to ask what work the students should do (this was while I was being sick and had completely lost my brain). In hindsight, my mum said that she should have told the college that I was in no condition to set work but she was worried about me at the time, so wasn't thinking about what was being said! It turned out that the cover teacher (my boss) didn't even follow the work that I'd suggested anyway, so the return call was pointless!
    In summary, I think that this approach is the best one! Some bosses should take note!

  14. I once had a need to discuss this with a doctor, who got very cross and pointed out that he had signed a note saying that the person in question was unfit to work. That was a legal document, and meant exactly what it said. Unfit to work means unfit to work, including the stress of trying to manage lessons remotely from home. Foreseeable absences are a different thing. Any decent HOD should be able to cope with an absent colleague. Most colleagues I know will try to phone or email lesson plans if possible for short term illness, but this should not become an obligation.
  15. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    This thread should be read in conjunction to a similar one over on Opinion. In law an employer fails in his duty of care (and thereby is in breach of contract) if he acts in a way that compromises the health and well-being of an employee. If demands are made of an employee such that his/her health is further compromised it is in breach of the tort of negligence. The fact that teachers have, historically, been taken for mugs is no excuse under the law.
    I agree with your comments, Davebrigg. Where common sense can prevail and an individual teacher feels well enough to assist colleagues in the provision of work, many willingly do so. However, to establish this as an expectation is a very different matter. It could and should lead to action against the employer.
  16. bikerbabe8

    bikerbabe8 New commenter

    Hello I am about to have an operation just after Easter I will need a possible 3 to 6 weeks off school depending on my recovery. I have already been asked by the head to start setting cover for the time I am away, the school knows this will be planned absence, but is using cover supervisors non specialist to cover my lessons, which I am worred about as they will not understand the content, I also think this is not following the 'rarely cover' for teachers guidance because if cover teachers are covering my full timetable then teachers will have to cover other absences, but thats a different issue. Am I expected to set three to 6 weeks worth of cover lessons this to me is a rediculous expectation! I am the only teacher of my subject for year 10/11 and the head of department the other member of my team is part time and cannot cover.
  17. MacGuyver

    MacGuyver Occasional commenter

    I recently had a need to ask the NEU about this, their guidance is to provide a rough plan. That is to say something along these lines: "Year 7: Lesson one - this topic; Lesson 2 - this topic; Lesson 3 - this topic; etc.... Any issues consult scheme of work or HoD" and to repeat that for each class. It is a planned absence and the school's decision not to arrange a long term supply teacher to make sure the students aren't taught by non-specialists. You'll be signed off as unfit for work and as such you shouldn't be doing any work at at home. As for detailed lesson plans for 6 weeks of cover, nope.

    Of course, you should be speaking to your union regarding this and asking their advice. Be sure that they'll support you should the school put pressure on you to provide detailed lesson plans. You could also point out to the school that it is a planned absence and negligent on their part not to arrange a subject specialist supply teacher. After all, it's the children who will suffer. If they insist then request time off in lieu for your 6 weeks worth of planning. You won't have any PPA time during the 6 weeks you're signed off unfit for work, when does the school expect your to plan?

    Also, why are you resurrecting a 7 year old thread?
  18. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    No, not reasonable...But you may find your exam results suffer if you don't do something!

    For Year 11, perhaps practice papers (but they will need marking), for Year 10 revision of Year 10 work, some sort of project work/independent research (depends on the subject, I guess).

    But, overall, this seems a very bad policy for your school and, esp., the students. What would the parents say? Perhaps someone should tell them ;)

    Seriously I'd be arguing with the HT now...Maybe saying that the extra stress could keep you off for longer...
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  19. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    This is a different situation to the original subject of this thread. There is nothing in the regulations which says that you cannot be asked to do something like this. It does not seem sensible, given the time you will be away, but it is (unfortunately) legal. However, I think you can argue for a specialist to b ebrought in at least for some of the time. It is crazy for somebody with no specialist subject knowledge to be teaching GCSE lessons, regardless of how detailed the lesson plans are.

    I would consult your union, as suggested above. Also, look at your workload and consider what you can do realistically without working crazy hours.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.

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