Sunderland teachers miss average of seven days due to illness

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ILLNESS caused Sunderland’s teaching staff to miss an average of seven days of term time.

The figures showed the number of sick days for all staff in council-run schools was 7.37 days for academic year September 2011 to August 2012.

Statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also showed that local authority schools spent more than £2.3million on supply teachers.

In May, the Office for National Statistics revealed the average number of sick days taken by all workers had dropped to 4.5 days a year, the lowest number since records began in 1993.

However, school staff in Sunderland, who clock up 13 weeks’ holiday a year compared to the average workers’ five weeks, were well above that.

The figures showed big variations among the schools from Usworth Grange Primary School and Burnside Primary School having the highest number of average sick days, above 19, through to North View School which had less than half a day.

Mike Johnson, Sunderland area secretary for the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said: “No doubt the higher averages for some schools, particularly smaller schools, could be where they have someone off on long-term sick or who is seriously ill. Also, teaching is an extremely stressful job.”

The amount or cash spent on supply teaching also varied hugely, with St Robert of Newminster shelling out £343,786 compared to The Venerable Bede CE School, St Leonard’s RC Primary and Valley Road Primary, who didn’t spend anything.

Sue Stanhope, Sunderland City Council’s director of human resources and organisational development, said: “Sunderland City Council is committed to improving the overall health of our communities, and the wellbeing of our employees.

“We will continue to work hard to successfully reduce levels of staff absence still further.

“As many of our employees live in Sunderland, doing all we can to have a healthy workforce will not only improve attendance at work, but contribute to a healthy city.

“Supply teachers provide appropriate flexibility for schools to cover unforeseen absences like sickness, and some maternity cover, and prevent them from spending unnecessary money on over-staffing.

“The headteacher and governing bodies of individual schools decide how best to spend their available budgets and employing supply teachers is a necessary and occasional expense which is covered by insurance in some schools. Employing supply teachers means classes and studies continue uninterrupted.”