Too few primary schools are using guidance that can help them better manage the impact of teacher absence

Only a minority of primary schools are using Welsh Government guidance that can help improve the management of teacher attendance, a report by Estyn has found. While a majority of headteachers surveyed are aware of the guidance on how schools manage staff attendance, only a minority have read and acted on its recommendations.

Estyn’s report, ‘Effective management of school workforce attendance in primary schools’ recommends that the Welsh Government should promote their guidance document more widely so that more primary schools can put its helpful information into practice.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says:
“Primary schools need to make sure that they evaluate the impact of teacher absence.   Monitoring and tracking the reasons for teacher absence can help to raise awareness of the potential impact of absence on learners. They should also monitor the work of supply teachers regularly to ensure that pupils make appropriate progress.”

Inspectors found that in the majority of schools, supply teachers use the school’s documents to plan lessons, but when this planning information is not available, supply teachers focus on keeping children busy, rather than plan lessons that build on pupils’ knowledge and skills.  

In addition, the report found that nearly all primary schools effectively monitor teachers’ absence when they are away from the classroom due to illness, but not for other reasons such as training, conferences, or other school duties. This means that very few schools can say how often pupils are taught by someone other than their class teacher. The report recommends that the Welsh Government should provide guidance on monitoring the impact of teachers being out of the classroom for reasons other than illness.

Estyn also recommends that the Welsh Government should produce guidance on the effective management of headteacher absence and they should also ensure that the provision of supply cover in the Welsh-medium sector is addressed. Local authorities should make training on managing workforce attendance available for all headteachers and they should also provide schools with benchmarking data so they can compare their attendance rates against others. Schools should also provide supply teachers with feedback on their performance and ensure they can always access lesson planning documents so pupils are still able to progress in their learning.

Notes to Editors:

About the report
• Estyn’s report ‘Effective management of school workforce attendance in primary schools’ was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and is available in full at
• The findings of the report draw on evidence from inspection and from 60 responses to questionnaires sent to a representative sample of primary school headteachers, governing bodies and local authority representatives. Inspectors also interviewed a sample of headteachers, local authority representatives, and representatives from two teaching supply cover agencies.

Publication date

Thursday, 5 January, 2017