Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: How many sick days does average Northern Ireland teacher take

'Teacher morale is at an all-time low – we are already involved in long-running industrial action over pay and workload'

The average Northern Ireland teacher takes nine days off sick a year and the cost of employing substitute teachers has risen to £73million.

That is according to the latest workforce statistics for the past financial year released by the Department of Education.

Across Northern Ireland there are almost 20,000 teachers. There are almost four times as many women teachers as there are men. The figures show there are 4,586 men in the profession as opposed to women.

In nursery school there are zero men involved.

The median age of teachers is 41s, an increase from 41.4 years in 2015/16. There are proportionally fewer teachers aged under 30 this year (9.7%) than in 2012/13 (12.3%).

And for almost every 18 children, there is one teacher.

The average number of days lost per teacher due to sickness in all schools was 9.5. This represents an increase of 1.3 days from the previous year.

While teacher substitution costs increased from £67.3 million to £73.6 million.

The figures also show retired teachers carried out 8,557 days subbing work. A drop of 0.5% compared to the previous year.

Substitute teachers, in total, carried out 505,597 days work - an increase of almost 50,000 on the previous year.

The figures also show that £603,092,190 was paid out to teachers in salary, making the average salary just over £30,000 a year.

'Our profession is being bled dry'

The latest statistics on Northern Ireland’s teaching workforce are ‘depressing but predictable’ according to a local union.

“Our profession is being bled dry,” said Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union.

“Teacher sick-leave is up, the pupil:teacher ratio is up, teacher substitution costs are up and the workforce is ageing – the statistics paint a bleak picture of the state of our education system.

“We have been highlighting issues surrounding each one of these statistics for some time now, warning parents that it is their children who will bear the brunt. Now we have the statistical evidence to back that up.

“Teacher morale is at an all-time low – we are already involved in long-running industrial action over pay and workload.

“School budgets too have been so brutally hacked away that principals simply don’t have the cashflow to fund their schools. We’ve seen ‘begging letters’ written to parents.

“We are seeing a growing number of children with increasingly complex additional needs feeding into the mainstream where the funding to support them just isn’t available.

“We are seeing teachers – whose vocation is to educate and nurture - buckle under the stress of trying to cope.

“We are seeing teachers unable to fulfil their vocation and passion to engender a love or learning, and being stretched to snapping point as they battle to juggle teaching with the paperwork and fatuous box-ticking now demanded.

“We have an obstructive Inspectorate which seems set on a course to alienate teachers, one that’s underpinned by spurious administration which only takes principals away from their daily duties.

“Is it any wonder sick leave is up and we are losing our young people, that vital fresh blood with their vigour and enthusiasm, from the profession?

“We need a sea change if this downward spiral is to be stemmed. Yet, without a functioning government what hope do we have of that?

“It is incumbent on our elected representatives to work together and resolve this issue – and in doing so give our children, and this country, the future it deserves.”

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