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St Michael's CofE Primary School

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Staff Absence

About our team

At St Michael’s School we have an incredibly dedicated and hard-working staff team. Most staff members put in many unpaid additional hours: running clubs; supporting children at sporting and musical events; going on school camps and trips outside school hours; meeting with and talking to parents and governors.

Managing absence

We have low levels of staff absence, but inevitably staff will become ill from time to time, need minor operations, go on maternity/paternity leave and so on. Staff will also at times be out of class/school on training courses, attending sporting events, carrying out other duties (eg management roles). When a member of staff is absent or out of class our priority is, as far as possible, to minimise the impact on our children so that their learning continues as seamlessly as possible.

Teacher absence

When a class teacher is absent they will of course be replaced. For the first week of absence we will generally aim to do this using school-based staff. We may reallocate a support teacher or one of our teaching assistants, depending on the year group and nature of the subject (some subjects are more specialised than others). Because all year groups plan together, we can always be sure that plans and resources are in place, and whoever takes the class will be well-prepared and fully capable of delivering the teaching. We are very fortunate in having a large number of very skilled and experienced teaching assistants who are able and willing to stand in for a teacher at short notice. By using our own staff for the first week’s absence we ensure continuity for the children, as well as ensuring they are taught by a familiar face.

We do not routinely use supply teachers for short-term absence mainly for the above reasons (continuity and familiarity). Having a different person possibly every day, with no guarantee of quality, is not in the children’s best interests. Where a class has a capable student teacher they may also stand in for their class teacher’s absence (under the supervision of the Year Team Leader)

Covering longer-term absence and maternity leave

Where teacher absence continues beyond a week, we will  generally look to use one of our regular supply teachers to cover for a set period of time, again to ensure continuity and avoid constant change. Maternity cover is usually managed by advertising for a fixed-term replacement.

Covering Teaching Assistant absence

Where a child is supported by a TA as part of a medical or SEN plan, we will usually cover from the first day, generally by reallocating other teaching assistant staff. 

Managing Change

We understand that staff absence can be unsettling for some children, and our aim is always to minimise change as far as possible. Using familiar staff is the best way of doing this. In our Reception classes there are always two adults attached to the class and it is very unlikely for both those staff members to be absent at the same time: we would do our best to avoid this.

Teachers v Teaching Assistants

We do not differentiate in children’s eyes between teachers and teaching assistants, and a teaching assistant covering a class will carry out exactly the same activities as the teacher would. 

Informing Parents

We do not routinely inform parents in advance of staff absence for the following reasons:

  • Most absence is unplanned and short-term. Our priority is to ensure cover and to make sure the person taking the class is fully briefed and prepared
  • It is not a realistic use of staff time to be informing parents in advance of every staff change. Because of the size of the school every day they are likely to be a number of changes
  • We want all children, even our youngest learners, to be resilient and adaptable and able to cope with change

Where absence lasts beyond a week we will usually write to parents informing them of the situation and explaining the cover procedure.

Using Facebook/Social Networking Sites

We would discourage parents from airing concerns about staff absence on these sites. Comments will invariably get back to the school (and potentially the member of staff concerned). These can be upsetting, ill-informed and potentially intimidating; no member of staff chooses to be unwell, and comments about their absence will neither speed their recovery nor build positive relationships with parents which are the foundations of children’s success in school. Unacceptable comments posted online will be dealt with by the Headteacher.