Since the first bell rang this school year, several councils have reported a sharp increase in teacher absenteeism due to illness.
Initial data on the first two months of the school year show an increase of teacher absenteeism by 31 percent in Copenhagen, 26 percent in Aarhus and 40 percent in Odense, Jyllands-Posten reports.
Some attribute this rise to the large-scale, sweeping school reforms introduced this year and contend that the situation could have been avoided if the changes had happened at a more gradual pace.
“Such massive change in such a short time will mean more sick leave,” Claus Hjortdal, the head of Skolelederforeningen, the school leaders association, told Jyllands-Posten. “I don’t think many people are that well informed about the extent of the changes happening at schools at the moment.”
Reforms including more teaching, new working hours, teacher relocations due to schools merging or closing, and more inclusive classrooms as students from special schools move to public schools.
“It is unfortunate, but to be expected that people get ill more often when there are so many changes in their lives,” he said. “The teachers feel pressured by the uncertainty of the changes and the increased work because they have to teach more hours and have less time to prepare.”
Government taking notice
Speaking to TV2, Alex Ahrendtsen, the DF education spokesperson, called the numbers “worrying” and warned the government and Kommunernes Landsforening (KL), the councils association, that they shouldn’t have pushed the reforms through without seeking advice from teachers.
“We take these numbers very seriously,” Steen Christiansen, the head of KL, said. “We’re going to monitor this area closely in the near future."
Christiansen also believes there is a relationship between the increase in absenteeism, school reform and the new working agreement.
Ahrendtsen welcomes the study, but wants to ensure that local agreements with teachers are also made so that they feel heard.
The preliminary data so far is not enough to conclude if this absenteeism is a national trend, although the numbers so far indicate that a sharp rise occurred in all six of the councils assessed.