'Stress and mental health conditions most common reason for teacher sickness in Leeds'

THE most common reason for Leeds teachers taking sick leave is stress and mental health conditions, a teaching union has said.

Leeds National Education Union spokesman Patrick Murphy also said he believes 'presenteeism' - when teachers go to work when they are sick - is more of a problem than absenteeism.

Mr Murphy spoke out after the Yorkshire Evening Post published a list of 20 secondary schools in Leeds where teachers took the most days off for illness.

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These are 20 Leeds schools where teachers take most days sickMr Murphy, who is district secretary for the union which represents 5,500 teachers and support staff working in Leeds, said: "In our experience the most common reason for absence for teachers is stress and mental health conditions. Those conditions lead to the longest absences."

Mr Murphy said teachers' workloads are "excessive," adding "I would say the main problem for teachers is not absenteeism it is presenteeism when they come to work when they probably shouldn't.

"They come to work out of responsibility when they are not necessarily well enough to be there.

"The nature of the job is that people will come to work because they have classes to teach and children they responsible for and examination results they will be held accountable for.

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"They will often come into work when they are not completely well."

Mr Murphy added: "As far as we are concerned attendance figures for staff in schools are pretty good and are better than the attendance across Leeds City Council as a whole."

Celia Foote, Leeds deputy secretary of the NASUWT (National Association of School Masters and Union of Women Teachers), said: "Generally, within the public sector school teachers sickness levels are lower than in many other services."

The data was published by the Government this autumn but relate to the 2017/18 school year.

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They show the average number of days taken off sick by teachers at the 20 Leeds secondary schools for which data was available where the most days were taken off for illness.

The average teacher in Leeds took 3.5 days off sick, slightly less than the national average of four.

Leeds brightest young stars celebrated at Yorkshire Young Achievers Awards 2019It was a slightly higher figure than the year before, when the average teacher in Leeds was off sick for 3.1 days.

Leeds City Council said sickness absence rates for school staff - including teachers and support staff - in Leeds maintained schools are lower than the council as a whole.

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Phil Mellen, deputy director of learning at Leeds City Council said: “The health and wellbeing of all our staff is a priority for us, and we have a staff wellbeing offer for schools across Leeds, which we are continuing to develop.

“We recognise the commitment that teachers and other school staff have for the important work that they do with children and young people, but it is also important that people who are not well enough to work don’t feel that they have to.

“We will continue to work with all our schools, especially schools leaders and governors, to ensure that staff are supported through any health issues, and that staff wellbeing is prioritised in all schools and settings”

The government's sickness absence figures showed Springwell Academy had the highest average teacher absences in Leeds in the 2017/18 school year, with an average of 16.3 days lost in a year.

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Springwell Academy is a specialist academy, which caters for children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs.

Second on the list was West Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre, which lost an average of 9.3 days to teacher sickness.

West Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre caters for students with moderate learning difficulties, severe learning difficulties, complex and multiple learning needs; Asperger’s, Autism and social and emotional and mental health needs. Some students have additional needs.

Third on the list was Crawshaw Academy, which saw an average of nine days lost to teacher sickness.

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Fourth on the list was Broomfield South Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre, which lost an average of eight-and-a-half days to teacher sickness.

It caters for students with the same needs as West Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre.

Fifth on the list was the academy-sponsored John Smeaton school, which lost an average of eight days to sickness.

Sixth was Leeds West Academy, which lost an average of 7.6 days to teacher sickness; seventh was Co-op Academy, Priesthorpe, which lost 6.9 days to sickness; eighth was Leeds East Academy, which lost 6.4 days to teacher sickness; ninth was Corpus Christi Catholic College, which lost 6.2 days and tenth was Lawnswood School, which lost 5.2 days.

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A spokesperson for the The White Rose Academies Trust, which runs Leeds West Academy and Leeds East Academy, said: "As with any medium sized employer, the trust is made up of over 400 colleagues and on occasion some of these colleagues will experience periods of sickness, including colleagues being absent from the workplace following medical procedures, bereavement and occasional seasonal related ailments.

The best photos from Leeds Christmas Lights Switch on 2019"During the 2017/18 academic year, our records show that our staff were absent for an unusually increased number of days.

"This position is supported by the fact that the average number of sickness days across the trust, for the academic year of 2018/19 was an average of 4.9 days, which is broadly in line with national figures."

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