Letter: Teachers' holidays

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Government apparently has plans to shorten teachers' holidays. It makes one wonder if there is anyone in Whitehall who has the slightest idea what actually goes on in schools.

If it were to come about, headteachers would be forced to fill these five weeks with compulsory in-service training and endless meetings. Of course meetings are necessary but need to be held at intervals during the term as problems arise. They cannot all be lumped together during the holidays. As for in-service training, as a teacher with thirty years experience who is due to retire at the end of this term, I can honestly say that the vast majority of courses and training sessions which I have attended have been largely irrelevant and often a total waste of time.

Most of the teachers I know already do a considerable amount of work at home in the holidays, usually trying to cope with the mass of paperwork associated with Sats, records of achievement, curriculum plans, preparation for possible Ofsted inspections and so on. Since I have taught for the last ten years in the private sector I have been largely protected from the worst excesses of this increasing bureaucracy, but I know what a burden this has become for many teachers. If they are obliged to spend an extra five weeks a year in school these tasks will simply not get done.

However, the proposed changes will not happen, for two simple reasons. First, if holidays were cut without teachers' salaries being increased by a very considerable amount (which they will not be), this would be a major disincentive to new entrants to the profession. Second, a very large number of married women would be forced to resign because they would simply be unable to make adequate childcare arrangements in the school holidays. The education system would be on the verge of collapse.

In order to raise educational standards we need better qualified (and therefore better paid) teachers, less meaningless paperwork and more resources so that they can do the job efficiently. It is as simple as that.