Managing impacts of staffing on your workload

As any leader of a curriculum area would know, when teachers you supervise call in sick, it can be an absolute nightmare on your workload. It can also cause a lot of stress during the day, particularly when multiple teachers take sick leave at the same time, which often happens during winter. I had such a day today when I had two teachers call in sick, both with a large number of lessons on their timetables. It took me over an hour to plan their lessons , organise all the printing and rolls for their relieving teachers. This meant starting the work at home at 6am. It is not a teacher’s fault when they call in sick. When you are sick, you are sick and there’s nothing you can do, but the impact on other teachers can be significant. I’ve spoken to some curriculum leaders for advice on how to better manage this impact on my workload as I don’t want it to impact my time with my baby. Before baby, I can go to school at 7am when multiple teachers call in sick. But now I can’t as my baby needs to be dropped off at daycare first and I don’t want to because I don’t want to sacrifice time I spend with baby in the morning. She shouldn’t miss out on time with her parent because others has called in sick. So here are some strategie I’ve been told:

(1) Unless a teacher is so sick they are in an emergency ward, they have to set their own relief work

I know this is a strategy in some schools but I don’t like it for several reasons. It encourages sick teachers to come to school because coming to school when you are too sick is easier than setting the relief work. This facilitates the spread of the illness and the next thing you know, more teachers are sick. I also think when you are sick, you should be resting and recovering, not setting relief work.

(2) A buddy system

Some have suggested that each teacher should be buddies with another teacher so that when one teacher is sick, the buddy has to set the relief work. I haven’t tried this but I think it’s a bit of a cop out from the curriculum leader. It’s almost like palming off your role to your staff. I personally will not implement this system by choice.

(3) Programming with relief work already in place

This is the strategy I like so far and would like to put in place from next term. Programs for units of work have one-off, relief teacher friendly work for each lesson. Teachers have to complete their registers day by day and leave them on their desks so that anyone can see where they are up to at any time. This strategy takes a lot of work to set up but will minimise stress and workload increase.
So how do you deal with the workload that comes with teachers taking sick leave?

6 thoughts on “Managing impacts of staffing on your workload

  1. I used 1) and staff had to email me where they were up to in their program and/or email in lessons even if bare bone lessons like “watch this video” no way 3) for my staff they couldn’t do registration every 2 weeks

    Sent from Graham’s iPhoneğŸŽ¿
    Twitter grahamhemmings🍺

    • Hi Graham. Most of the time when my staff are sick they do email me to say where they are up to. That still increases my workload though when two people emails and says something like “my year 10s are up to the Big Bang theory” as I have to find casual teacher friendly work, which is work that is science related, but not too much as it can be taught by any subject teacher, and it has to be engaging enough for students not to give the casual a challenging time. I usually print off a crossword or findaword for early finishers so they don’t bother the casual teacher. All this takes a lot of time and throws the day right off.

  2. As a Head Teacher Alice, I went with option 3. Each of my staff shared the preparation of lessons for each unit in each Year group and these lessons were kept on file. As each lesson was taught by a casual teacher when the class teacher was absent, the casual completed a register and that lesson was ‘ticked off’ for that class. If the teacher for that class was absent a second time, we went to lesson two for that unit/Year group. It worked well. Generally we found that to have four lessons prepared for each unit was more than enough. Good luck.

  3. At our school we set the work for the relief teachers but mostly we just email it to the students. So yes, you would need to be dying before taking time off. I have worked at schools where there is a stock folder of lessons or activities waiting for someone to call in sick. It’s ‘busy work’ but better than nothing. I keep my weekly plan on Evernote and can share it with anyone. Most of the activities are hyperlinked which is fine if the school is a 1:1 laptop school.

  4. Our programs for juniors consist of a sequence of activities kept on Moodle. It has always been our policy that sick teachers at least email telling where they are up to (unless it is a hospital situation). We can then tell the casual which activity they should do. If it is a non-science casual that might mean skipping ahead a little to find an activity that is suitable. Our regular science casuals can login to Moodle and help with the process of preparation. Having central work has greatly decreased the difficulty of setting lessons. Senior lessons can be more difficult, but many of our teachers email some appropriate work directly to the students, if they have it ready. (Our school is 1:1 BYOD.)

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