Schools hiring more substitutes to cover for stressed teachers

Primary school teachers feel overwhelmed by their duties

Growing absenteeism among teachers in primary schools is forcing school principals to engage professional employment agencies to bring in substitutes to help ensure that students are getting a proper education.

More and more teachers are calling in sick due to stress-related illnesses. Schools  are forced to hire and pay substitutes to cover for them. 

In Helsingør the number of teachers on sick leave has increased by nearly 100 percent since much-debated school reforms were put in place.

READ MORE: Teacher sick leave on the rise

Teachers down with stress
According to the chairman of the Danish Union of teachers, Anders Bondo Christensen, teachers feel pressured by the requirements of the reform.

"We see a significant increase in absenteeism in many municipalities," said Christensen. "It's not just two days out with a cold, unfortunately teachers go down with stress for long periods."

Although exact figures are not available, a study conducted  by TV2 in six municipalities earlier this month showed that absenteeism in Copenhagen has increased by about 31 percent, while Odense and Aarhus reported increases of 40 and 26 percent respectively.

READ MORE: Every third Danish school has a poor working environment

Twice as many substitutes
According to Morten Berg from the substitute teacher group Pædagogisk Vikarbureau, schools are hiring twice as many substitutes than they did before the school reform.

Annette Vilhelmsen from the children and education committee is concerned about the trend and encouraged municipalities to create a better working environment in public schools instead of spending money on substitute employees.

"A primary school cannot function well if it is filled by substitute employees," Vilhelmsen said in a statement. "I strongly recommend that the issue of absenteeism is taken seriously and dialogue with teachers begins soon."