Wednesday, December 31, 2008

British schools too much for British teachers

Negligible disciplinary options means high stress

Teachers are calling in sick at the rate of 15,000 a day. Almost three million working days were lost last year, up from 2.5million in 1999. Some 311,000 teachers took at least one day off.

Tories called the official figures 'very worrying', linking them with mounting bureaucracy and disruptive classroom behaviour.

The Government's school workforce statistics, which cover full and part-time teachers and classroom assistants, show the average number of sick days has risen from 5.1 a head in 1999 to 5.4 in 2007. The overall number of days lost was 2.9million. This equates to almost 15,000 teachers off sick on each school day. The total of 311,770 who took sickness absence is well over half the number working in English schools.

The rising levels of sick leave mean more pupils have to be taught by unfamiliar supply teachers who may not be specialists in the subjects they are teaching.

Tory children's spokesman Michael Gove said the cost of teacher absence could run into hundreds of millions. Schools have to pay œ103 to œ210 a day for supply teachers.

Teaching unions said stress was 'endemic' to teaching in Britain. NUT acting general secretary Christine Blower said: 'Given the enormous pressures teachers are under, it is remarkable they have so little sick leave. 'The vast majority of teachers, sometimes unwisely, go into school, even though they may be ill, because of their commitment to the children. 'Unfortunately, too much stress is endemic to the job and it is the responsibility of not only the Government but the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats to explore ways of reducing the excessive numbers of initiatives faced weekly by schools.'

Despite record education spending under Labour, teaching vacancies have risen by a quarter in the past year - with four in ten new teachers quitting within a year. Critics say they are weighed down with too many initiatives, too much form-filling and too much bad behaviour.

Mr Gove said: 'It's very worrying that the number of sick days has risen so dramatically. 'The Government needs to investigate the reasons so we can make sure there is as much stability as possible in every child's education.'

According to the General Teaching Council for England, there are 465,672 registered teachers currently working in England's schools. The figure does not include classroom assistants. The highest sickness rate was in London, where 50,840 full and part-time teachers took leave. The lowest rate was in the North East of England, with 13,360 teachers taking sickness absence.

Mark Wallace, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said last night: 'Taxpayers and pupils are the real victims of this epidemic. Teachers clearly need firmer rules and better management to both reduce stress and stop people getting away with taking sickies.'

But the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'Teacher sickness levels remain low and stable and well within industry norms. 'Of course, teaching is an incredibly rewarding but also very challenging role and we have worked hard to reduce the pressures on teachers. 'We have employed record numbers of support staff, given teachers a half-day a week outside the classroom to plan and prepare lessons, given teachers the full support of the law in dealing with unruly pupils and removed admin tasks from the list of activities which they can be asked to do.'

A spokesman for the largest teaching union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'Teachers are highly dedicated to their jobs and to the children they teach. 'We would question the release of these statistics if their intended purpose is to seek to undermine or call into question the hard work of teachers, who on a daily basis raise attainment and help children reach their full potential.'


Fake teacher? No problem in the Australian State of Victoria

Your legion of highly-paid bureaucrats will protect you (NOT). And when you do get found out only a slap on the wrist awaits you

THE state education watchdog has been rapped over the knuckles for failing to uncover a fake teacher working at a Melbourne primary school. The Victorian Institute of Teaching registered Renai Brochard, despite conflicting birth dates and signatures on her paperwork. Brochard, 41, was given a suspended jail term for stealing the identity of South Australian teacher Ginetta Rossi, her husband's former wife. She used the name to gain registration in Victoria and taught for several months last year at Melbourne Montessori School's Caulfield campus.

Brochard was exposed only after Ms Rossi tried to renew her teaching status with SA education authorities. It is believed Brochard is now working in a childcare job in Adelaide.

A recent institute of teaching disciplinary hearing heard Brochard was paid an annual salary of $58,828 at Melbourne Montessori. She misspelt Ms Rossi's first name on some registration documents and had whited out her name and replaced it with Ms Rossi's on her birth certificate, the hearing was told.

The Montessori principal approved Brochard's birth and marriage certificates, although not authorised to do so, the institute panel found. In its decision, the panel, headed by Susan Halliday, said thorough scrutiny and cross-referencing of all paperwork by the institute would have revealed the discrepancies. The panel said the institute had tightened checking procedures, but it recommended staff receive more training. The fraud was the first case of its kind to go before an institute of teaching hearing.

Brochard was convicted at Moorabbin Magistrates' Court on April 17 on charges of deception and making a false document. She was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.


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