Flu putting huge strain on our schools

SCHOOL classes are being combined to combat a lack of teachers when they call in sick, with some schools resorting to filing several grades into assembly halls amid a horror flu season.

The Courier-Mail can reveal almost half of Queensland's 48,000 full-time state school teachers have needed between two and five days off since school began in late-January.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said at one Brisbane school recently, 17 of its 31 teachers were off sick on one day.

"They (state schools) might take two or three Year 3 classes and put them together," he said.

"When you're missing quite a few teachers, you're often missing quite a few students because illness goes through a school population."


Kevin Bates, President QLD Teachers Union. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Kevin Bates, President QLD Teachers Union. Picture: Liam Kidston.

Since school resumed this year, 32 per cent of teachers have taken one day or less for sick leave, with 43 per cent having needed one day or less since June 1.

Education Minister Grace Grace said it was better teachers didn't go to work when they were sick in order to stop the spread of illness.

"While this year's cold and flu season has been particularly severe for the community, managing teacher absences due to illness is nothing new," she said.

"The department has a pool of around 5000 casual relief teachers across the state that principals can access if they have a teacher away sick.

"Schools also have access to smaller pools of permanent relieving teachers that exist at a district level."

Mr Bates, who's previously told The Courier-Mail upwards of 10,000 educators need to be added to the workforce within five to 10 years if the state is to ward off a teacher shortage, said in some instances, principals and heads of departments were lending a hand when educators were sick.

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

He also said the ways in which schools managed sick teachers wasn't new.

"The other option that's often used is put all the kids in a hall and have a smaller number of people supervising," he said.

"None of those things are ideal.

"They're all strategies that people use just to try and overcome shortages and situations."

Mr Bates said principals had informed him the current flu season was one of the worst they'd seen for some time.

" … I have heard examples from schools where as many as 17 out of 31 teachers (were) away on a day in one particular school on the south side of Brisbane," he said.

"Often if you've got that many away at your school, your neighbouring schools will also have people away so it's everyone trying to call on the same supply of casual teachers all at once."

LNP education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said the Palaszczuk Government wasn't planning for the "teacher shortage".