My 17-year-old daughter is taught by a senior member of her school's leadership team. While we both know she is being taught very well by an excellent teacher, we are both worried about how many lessons her teacher has missed as a result of his other school commitments. I am worried that if I approach the school directly I might cause trouble for my daughter. Teacher Jake Burnett replies: This issue is remarkably common and it is often avoided because it may appear to be awkward or problematic, especially as the information you are receiving is likely to have come directly - and possibly anecdotally - from your daughter. However, it is a good sign because it means your daughter is taking a responsible attitude to her learning and is anxious about perceptions she has about not receiving the direct teaching input to which she is entitled. Initially, it is worth discussing the issue with your daughter and asking her for some definite evidence which she can use to back up what she has been saying. The situation may be short-lived, as is usually the case. If, after speaking with your daughter, it does seem that the teacher is regularly missing lessons, then it is certainly worth raising the issue with the school, almost certainly directly with the principal; it will not cause any trouble but remind the principal about the value that you and your daughter place in her learning. Remember that there are many situations where any teacher may not be able to be present for a scheduled class for totally legitimate reasons. This can include sickness or attending training or developmental courses, for example. You mention that your daughter is a senior student and I am sure you can understand that an unattended class of 30 11-year-olds in a sports hall or science laboratory merits the attention of an adult more than her class might. Nevertheless, such situations should be rare. One of the reasons for this is that in any planned absence within a school there should be a contingency in place to make sure that students never 'miss' lessons. A class may have a cover or substitute teacher and, although the lesson itself may well not be taken by a subject specialist, there will be an adult on hand to answer any questions. The students will also be given a lesson which should be appropriate for the subject. It is interesting to note that within my own school, the only times students questioned the value of their learning was during these cover lessons. However, a key point to note is that these occasions should be very infrequent and, although schools are also wrestling with how to best ensure that these sorts of lessons are valuable experiences, it is important for students to be in tune with their own learning and to take responsible roles in working independently or extending themselves beyond the content given to them. In certain cases teachers may be away from school for an extended length of time, for example for a serious illness. In these situations schools will rearrange timetables and ensure consistency and continuity for classes. These will normally be supervised by a head of department or a senior leader within the school. Please also consider the fact that teachers, especially in a small region like Hong Kong, may well have to travel abroad for training and professional development, and this can add to any timescale of absence. Within my own school teachers have travelled to Singapore, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sydney and Mumbai within the past year. Such travel may sound glamorous, but in each case teachers have worked weekends and have always left detailed lesson plans for their classes to follow. On their return they have been able to work with their colleagues and to share considerable knowledge and educational training across the school. Also be aware that schools have limited budgets for such training and so will only allow it within strict parameters. One of these is to ensure that students do not miss large amounts of teaching time. In your daughter's case it is also very important to relate the experiences she is telling you to both her own context and that of the school. As an older student who is likely to be preparing for studying at university, it is important for her to be actively involved in her own learning. In the unlikely event that she feels she is genuinely unaware of what is expected of her, it is vital for her to show maturity and responsibility. She might ask other students or approach other teachers who teach within the same subject area. It is also likely in situations of longer, planned absences that teachers will set students work that is deliberately very open ended. Such inquiry-based learning gives great potential for students to apply themselves individually and independently while still helping to cover the curriculum. These are just the sorts of skills asked for at a tertiary level.