Up to 15,000 teachers a day phone in sick

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Teachers taking time off for sickness cost almost three million working days in England alone last year, an increase of almost a fifth in a decade. On an ordinary school day, an average of 15,000 teachers are off sick across the country, according to government figures obtained by the Conservatives.

With schools having to pay a minimum of £103 a day for supply teachers, and sometimes as much as £210, the cost to the educational authorities of covering for sick teachers is "hundreds of millions of pounds", the shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove, said.

More than 311,000 full and part-time teachers took sick leave in 2007, out of 465,672 registered teachers working in England's schools. As there are about 195 days in the school year, the Tories calculated that means about 15,000 teachers were off sick each day.

Since 1999, the number of days lost through teacher sickness has risen from 2.5 million to 2.9 million. The average number of days a teacher takes off per year has gone up from 5.1 to 5.4 and the proportion of teachers taking time off has gone from 54 per cent to 57 per cent.

"It's very worrying that the number of sick days has risen so dramatically. The Government needs to investigate the reasons so we can make sure there is as much stability as possible in every child's education," Mr Gove said.

But Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers said: "Given the enormous pressures teachers are under, it is remarkable that they have so little sick leave on average."