Exclusive: How an Ofsted ‘inadequate’ rating can make you sick

New analysis of teacher absences reveals big differences in the number of days lost to staff sickness depending on school type, Ofsted rating and location

The chances of a teacher taking sick leave vary significantly depending on what kind of school they work in and where in the country they teach, an analysis of absences shows.

The revealing new research suggests that schools rated “inadequate” by Ofsted struggle with much higher rates of sickness than those rated “outstanding”, while grammar schools have far lower levels than comprehensives.

Teachers who are working in sponsor-led primary academies are more likely to take time off ill than those who are working in local-authority primary schools, although the opposite is true at secondary level.

Regionally, the teachers most likely to take time off are to be found in the secondary schools of south-west England, while primary teachers in the north-east are the least likely to phone in sick.

Timo Hannay, founder of education data consultants SchoolDash and author of the analysis, published on his blog, writes: “The data doesn’t tell us whether these higher levels of absence are a cause or a consequence of the perceived lower performance at these schools, but you can imagine them feeding off one another. Work at a struggling school must often be more stressful than at a high-performing one, and if the worst schools lose around 60 per cent more staff days to sickness than the best ones, this surely makes them less likely to improve.

“The patterns for in-school deprivation, local deprivation and low prior pupil attainment are somewhat similar, if less stark.”

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The absence rate in teaching, overall, is very low. Teachers don’t want to let kids or colleagues down. But teaching is a difficult job to do if you are under the weather, because you are in front of an audience the whole time.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 8 July edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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