Sick leave teacher: union opposes pediatricians

Schools reopen step by step.

Schools reopen step by step.


  • Are teachers disproportionately often on sick leave in the Corona crisis? The Association of Pediatricians makes this allegation.
  • The education union GEW contradicts: “The allegations are populist,” says board member Ilka Hoffmann.
  • According to Hoffmann, the fact that there are too few teachers is due to years of poor planning.

Schools are in an exceptional situation in the Corona crisis. First of all, the lessons had to be continued via the Internet despite the often inadequate digital equipment; when it reopened, there were again major challenges: hygiene regulations had to be implemented, the lessons organized in the shift system and the supervision maintained. And all with fewer teachers.

Because, according to the ministries of culture, in some federal states up to a third of teachers are sick, the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” reports. This also leads to criticism. Thomas Fischbach, President of the Federal Association for Pediatricians, said: “It is incomprehensible that the professional group of teachers claims such a protective privilege.”

Ilka Hoffmann, board member of the Education and Science Union (GEW), vehemently contradicts: “These allegations are populist, here the image of the supposedly lazy teacher is used to create a mood against a professional group,” she told

Many colleagues cannot be expected to go to work. “This includes chronically ill and older teachers,” says Hoffmann. According to the guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the risk of a severe course of illness increases sharply between 50 and 60 years, as does certain previous illnesses. These include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, diseases of the respiratory system, liver, kidney or cancer. Overweight and smoking are also risk factors.

Heinz-Peter Meidinger, President of the German Teachers’ Association, said this week on Deutschlandfunk Kultur that around 12 percent of teachers in Germany are over 60 years old. You are particularly at risk. He tells “I guess that not even half of the teachers who are considered to be at risk actually stayed at home.”

The federal states proceed quite differently with the teachers concerned. Some require a certificate from teachers, in others there is no obligation for members of the risk groups to return to classroom attendance.

GEW sees education ministers as responsible

Unionist Hoffmann admits that there is generally an increased sickness rate among teachers, even among the long-term sufferers. “But this can be explained by the demands that have been increasing for years, the overload and an excessively thin workforce,” she says.

She receives support from Stephan Wassmuth, Chairman of the Federal Parents’ Council. He says “The sick leave of teachers has always been a bit above, normal ‘.” Now, on average, slightly older teachers would be added as a risk group. There are certainly black sheep like everywhere, says Wassmuth. But he also points out that there are many teachers in the corona crisis who are very committed.

Hoffmann and Wassmuth agree that the fact that there are too few teachers in the current situation is not solely to blame for the Corona crisis. There are simply too few teachers. The primary schools alone lacked 20,000, says Hoffmann. She makes no secret of where she sees responsibility for this situation. “If you now think that there are too few teachers, then you have to speak to the education ministries of the countries that have been hiring too little over the years and have neglected teacher training.”

The federal states go different ways of opening schools. While in Bavaria in mid-June all pupils are only supposed to go back to school on a daily basis, in Rhineland-Palatinate they are already planning lessons for everyone. However, as always in times of Corona, everything is subject to the proviso that the number of infections does not increase again.

Hoffmann says that from an educational point of view, it is imperative that the children come back to school. “But it is very difficult for them, the parents, but also for teachers to guarantee health.”

Are you a student, teacher or parent? Write to me about your experiences in the Corona period: [email protected]

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