Teachers sick for longer periods due to burnout, says report

Summary

Flanders’ teachers are sick for longer periods of time than in previous years, due to an increased workload and ever-increasing diversity in the classroom, according to the education department’s annual report

Most sick days in five years

Fewer teachers in Flanders took sick leave last year, but those that did remained absent longer than in previous years, according to the education sector’s annual report on sick leave. In 2014, teachers were absent for a total of 2,514,111 days – the highest number since 2009. On average, Flemish teachers were sick for 15 days in the year.

The biggest causes of absenteeism were psychosocial conditions such as stress, burnout and depression. More than one in three sick days (36.4%) were attributed to these problems compared to 33.5% in 2013. In comparison, psychological problems cause one-quarter of staff sick leave at federal government institutions.

Older teachers in particular suffer from work pressure, although increasingly more teachers in their 30s and 40s are also taking time off because of psychosocial afflictions. Teachers in secondary education run the biggest risk of having the problem.

According to education experts, teachers suffer more quickly from burnout because they have to “perform” every day alone in front of the classroom. Increasing diversity and larger numbers of students with special needs are also increasing their risk of stress and burnout. Teachers also cite the burden of paperwork as a stressor at work.

Education minister Hilde Crevits said that the report’s insights will play a role in negotiations on the ongoing teachers’ career pact, which is being developed to help teachers remain in the job until retirement.

Educational system

The Flemish educational system is divided into two levels: primary (age six to 12) and secondary school (12 to 18). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 18.
Types - There are three educational networks in Flanders: the Flemish Community’s GO! network, and publicly funded education – either publicly or privately run.
Not enough space - In recent years, Flemish schools have been struggling with persistent teacher shortages and a growing lack of school spaces.
No tuition fees - Nursery, primary and secondary school are free in Flanders.
1

million school-going children in 2013

30

million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013

11

percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma