Proposals to shorten teachers' holidays

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Teachers would be given shorter holidays and fewer bureaucratic tasks under a proposal put forward at a meeting of a left-wing think-tank yesterday.

The suggestion comes at a time when the Government is considering ways to raise standards by restructuring the profession and improving morale.

Under the plan, suggested at a seminar organised by the Fabian Society, teachers' holidays would be cut to between four and six weeks a year.

They would be required to teach on Saturday mornings, after school and at summer schools of the type proposed last week by the Government which will help improve literacy through two-week programmes during the holidays.

In return, there would be a big reduction in the administrative tasks teachers had to carry out and support staff would ensure school equipment, such as photocopiers, was functioning properly. The aim would be to maximise the time teachers spend actually teaching.

The meeting was attended by teachers, local authority officials, academics and politicians.

Teachers reacted angrily to the suggestion of shorter holidays. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Teachers are already working in excess of 50 hours a week.

"That is why so many of them are suffering from stress and leaving the profession. We would oppose any attempt to change the working week or the working year."

He said only two weeks ago David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, had announced that he was reducing teachers' administrative load: "I cannot conceive he would have made such an announcement if there was another side of the picture he was not revealing."

At the meeting, held under rules which mean speakers cannot be identified, some speakers suggested that teachers were too defensive.