Back in March, I wrote about getting my first jab, and how it got me one step closer to my annual holiday in Mallorca, something that, obviously, did not happen last year. I usually go away the day after we break for the summer, which means that the school-aged children and families are still at their desks (or at their laptops at home) while I’m taking my first dip in the Med.
I have noticed a lot more handwringing from FE teachers this year about whether to attempt a break at all, whether in this country or on the quickly dwindling list of Green countries.
Teachers, it seems, still feel they need to hold themselves to higher standards than the rest of the country, engaging in martyrdom at the risk of being told off for having "all that time off". You will never see a teacher in secondary education more irate than being told: "You have all those lovely holidays!" – a phrase that usually prompts a list of things to do during the summer, including marking and planning.
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I don’t mind admitting that as an FE tutor teaching a pastoral curriculum, my holidays are holidays. Granted, the first half term usually involves sleeping until noon and staring at the wall trying to recover physically and mentally from the Term of Death, but I don’t plan, or mark, or look at my emails in the holidays, and I never will. I am on a term time only contract, which means I earn less than others in order to have more lovely holidays, and I’ll be damned if I try to work through them to satisfy some outdated idea of teachers as people who should sacrifice their private lives for the job. Once I walk out of the building and turn on the out of office replies, it’s Pina Colada time.
Travelling to Spain: how it worked
This year was slightly different, but I felt that after the most stressful 18 months of my professional career, I deserved a break. I had the holiday booked when Spain was moved to the Amber list, which meant only double jabbed people could go, and you had to quarantine for 10 days afterwards.
I was well up for this. A week in the sun and then 10 days of chilling at home with other people doing my food shopping? Sounded like an excellent deal. Then things started to go wrong. Firstly my hotel announced they were not opening for the season, then my flight was cancelled. No worries, I rebooked a new flight and found a new hotel, while some colleagues were telling me to call it off, and others were cheering me on like I was some pioneer and not just a knackered teacher who wanted to be on the beach.
I had several Covid hoops to jump through, including a Day 2 test, which the private providers were having a price war over, seeing who could go the highest. I eventually found a postal kit for £49, which, added to the test I had to have in Spain, was an extra £74. Luckily so few people wanted to travel that my flight price dropped…by £74. It seemed meant to be.
Aside from having to wear a mask from the moment you stepped into the airport to the moment you got to your hotel room, a very sweaty six hours, there was the addition of a number of forms and assurances you had to have. A vaccination certificate, a pre-entry form for Spain, a negative covid test in Spain, a pre-entry test for the UK and proof you had paid for a Day 2 test on the way back.
However I found this only accounted for an hour all told, just as much time as I spent in the taxi on the way to the hotel. The Spanish clinic were rapid, taking my name, sitting me in a chair and jamming a swab up my nose in about 15 seconds. We went for a drink at the stereotypical English bar next door, and the negative result was back before the bill came.
It was all going too well. I had a lovely week of tapas, cocktails, sunshine and swimming in the sea, and arrived back on a Thursday night. I went diligently to the service station drop box on Saturday afternoon with my day 2 test, then on Sunday, got an NHS track and trace notification that someone on our flight had tested positive for Covid, and I needed to isolate for a week.
It’s a hard life sitting on your settee when the rest of the UK is frying in the heat, waiting for someone to drop off your food shopping, but I don’t mind the martyrdom.