Addressing concerns caused by recurrent teacher absences

Debate : Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
We have had to deal with recurrent staff absence which led to the initiation of disciplinary/competency proceeding. Balancing the wellbeing of staff against the needs of the children and the wider school community can be challenging. Dealing with HR and the red tape surrounding teacher competency can be frustrating, particularly when you feel the education of successive cohorts of children is being detrimentally affected.

What happened?
We took guidance from the LA on how to manage procedures effectively to ensure impartiality was maintained and that correct HR processes were observed. We worked with the headteacher to find and maintain a staffing structure and temporary roles to provide the best continuity and security for the children as possible. We supported the headteacher in addressing the concerns of staff and parents and with managing the return to work of the staff member involved.

Knowledge of governors with an educational professional background was useful, particularly around supply cover and contracts, as was knowledge from governors with HR experience. Our clerk to the governing body was also instrumental in making sure correct procedures were followed during meetings, that we remained impartial and that confidentiality was maintained.

What lessons were learnt?
As of the current point in time, the staff member has returned to work and appears to have settled well into a new role. The staff, parents and children seem happier.

School Human Resource issues can be very complex, so it is important that governing bodies review their policies and are familiar with the correct processes to follow. Your Local Authority may also provide a range of training for you to attend, particularly if you are a member of any of the relevant statutory committees, in addition to the provision of specific guidance to assist you.

Your governing body will have the following policies in place, which are usually produced by the Local Authority.

School Staff sickness absence policy

School Workforce attendance

Staff capability policy

Staff disciplinary policy

The school will have a Managing Sickness Absence policy as well, and this must be followed when staff are off sick. If there are prolonged periods of absence, then the capability procedure could be invoked, in certain circumstances. This happened in this school.

It is so important to ensure that the relevant policy at school is followed, as any errors could call the whole procedure into question.

The process for staff undergoing a capability process does take some time, as the staff member must be offered the opportunity to improve and support must be provided. There is usually a 3-step approach which includes an informal stage with a support programme put in place, to a more formal stage when warnings may be issued, to the final stage of dismissal.

The governing body were lucky to have members with experience in Human Resources, however, getting advice from the Local Authority is crucial in cases such as this.

Please seek advice from the Local Authority or Diocesan Authority as appropriate, right from the beginning or contact Governors Cymru Services on [email protected]

Has your school had to apply disciplinary procedures against a teacher for recurrent absences or address a similar problem? If so, how did the school handle this so as to ensure a good outcome?
What related issues may need to be considered and investigated if a member of staff is frequently off work with sickness or for other reasons?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?


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