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Teachers Sick Leave cannot be tackled unless more done to tackle stress levels

4 August, 2006

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson responding to the revelation that sick leave by the teaching profession amounted to £16m said:

" There is a clear need to investigate in a more focused fashion the reasons why so many teaching staff are taking leave although it is clear that all of the indications would suggest that increased work loads is a major contributing cause of sick leave.

"It is also the case that we have lost 525 teachers in the last two teaching years and that we are set to lose between 500 and 800 over the next year. This is a direct consequence of the British Government's decision to exploit the demographic changes and falling rolls and to reduce budgets to schools rather than using falling rolls to provide better teacher pupil ratios in the classroom, which would reduce stress levels on teachers.

"One of the direct consequences of the British Government's negative approach to falling roles has been the haemorrhaging of teachers, larger class sizes and an inability to support the mainstreaming of special needs provision in schools and begin to tackle the numeracy and literacy deficit which is a concern to all teachers.

"The British Government has by reducing budgets on the basis of school roles, s increasing class sizes and the stress on teachers who in the Six Counties do not even have the time out like their colleagues in England to plan and prepare lessons. Indeed, there is not even a Teachers Welfare Society adequately resources to support teaching staff and to compound matters some classes have as many as 29 children with over a third requiring special needs support so it is hardly surprising that our teachers suffer so much stress and end up on sick leave.

" If we want to address what we see as excessive sick leave and equally excessive payments for substitute teachers then we need a local accountable minister of our own at the Assembly providing a real budget to support education and learning." ENDS

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