Day trip to France is least we deserve

Stephen Pimenoff

The hoo-ha over the 44 teachers who used what was supposed to be a training day to go to France to shop and have lunch illustrates to perfection the malaise at the heart of the teaching profession - though not quite in the sense that critics imply.

The teachers, from Gravesend Grammar School, Kent, used one of their five Baker Days for a trip to Boulogne. The head called it a "team-building exercise designed to restore morale" following an Ofsted inspection, but condemnation was universal.

A spokesman from the Department for Education and Employment called it a "totally inappropriate use of a Baker Day", while David Blunkett, Labour education spokesman, said it did not fall into his definition of staff training.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to stay in a hotel while the sales team from some double-glazing company are having their morale restored after a disappointing quarter will know that corporate junkets are thinly disguised excuses for a social binge. But they seem to work, as the high morale among double-glazing salesmen testifies. How, then, is such an exercise deemed inappropriate for teachers, who occasionally need a morale boost as badly as salesmen?

God knows teachers have few enough perks. Heads and deputies have their yearly conferences, but for many others there is nothing. They labour, week in and week out, at a tiring occupation, with only the conviction that they are doing an important and worthwhile job as compensation.

Not for them the five-course business lunches in Lyon with representatives of the firm's French subsidiary; nor the travel to meetings for an invigorating exchange of views; nor the conferences in cosy hotels by the sea in Paignton. They rarely meet teachers outside their own school, and nowadays seem to have little time even to read professional journals. Is it any wonder that, so lacking in stimulation, some of them resort to the kind of teaching criticised by inspectors at The Ridings?

Let the Gravesend teachers have their one-day outing. Come to that, let all teachers have such an outing once a year.

Stephen Pimenoff is a former teacher

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