Dutch schools called not to replace sick teachers to draw attention to staff shortages

Primary school classroom
Primary school classroom. (Photo: racorn/DepositPhotos)

The general association for school leaders AVS and union CNV are calling on school directors not to arrange a replacement teacher if any of their teachers call in sick. With this the unions want to show politicians and society that school leaders are no longer able to arrange replacements, and that they are under great pressure, NOS reports.

According to AVS and CNV, schools in the Netherlands are not only faced with teacher shortages, but also a growing shortage of school leaders. "We notice that vacancies for school leaders are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. Soon there will be no one to take the phone call from a sick teacher at 7:00 a.m. and arrange for a replacement. We have to send a strong signal."

A survey done by AVS among 1,400 school leaders showed that schools are only able to fill one in three 'sick days' with a qualified temporary teacher. For another third of sick reports, schools get creative and put, for example, retirees, teaching assistants or even school directors in front of the class. For the rest, no replacement can be found.

 AVS expects that around 700 schools in the Netherland will respond to the call not to replace sick teachers. This could result in pupils being sent home, or being watched at school but with no lessons provided. There are also a number of schools that will not participate in this action. AVS recognizes that responding to this call is a difficult choice to make. "We find many schools that find it difficult to do something like this to the parents. But if we do nothing, we will soon have a much bigger problem. Society and parents need to understand that this unpopular decision may ensure in the long-term that we keep having enough school leaders."

Patricia Meyer, director of elementary school De Flierefluiter in Zwaag, supports the action, but will still arrange for a replacement if her teachers call in sick. "It is better to plan an action like this in advance, because no parent has an alternative at 8:30 in the morning. Parents are not responsible for this problem", she said to NOS. Meyer had to sent classes home multiple times in the past school year. She currently has three teachers sick for an extended period and one teacher with the flu. That is why a teaching assistant is currently teaching kids, and in the past they had interns in the classroom. "There is really no other option."