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Should we have these holidays?

I am writing with a mixture of incredulity and concern as a reaction to the various articles in The TES of January 23, which refer to teachers' pay and conditions: the front-page story referring to the comments of Stephen Byers, the article by Michael Stoten in the opinion columns and the typically controversial article by Sheila Lawlor.

I would readily applaud moves by the Government financially to reward teachers for the extra hours of work. I doubt, however, that the Treasury would be able to find enough money to pay for the extra hours which teachers already do for free. An incentive allowance to work in action zones could easily be put in place without jeopardising the national pay and conditions agreement.

As for Sheila Lawlor's remarks regarding teachers' holidays, I am amazed that someone who speaks so readily about education matters can be so ignorant about the reality of teachers' working lives. Certainly in the primary sector, in which I work, I do not know of any teacher who does not spend a very large proportion of their so-called holidays working in precisely the way Ms Lawlor suggests.

We already discuss the progress of pupils, prepare work, read and try to catch up with all the national curriculum subjects in the holidays. We also plan our term's work, prepare and often decorate our classrooms, and attend to our responsibilities as subject co-ordinators for which there is little, if any, time in the school day.

If Ms Lawlor really wants to know why teachers should have these holidays, she ought to try working as a classroom teacher in a primary school for a few weeks, instead of sitting in her ivory tower hurling brickbats.

RICHARD SIMPSON 54 Pounds Park Road Peverell, Plymouth

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