Beat burn-out by halving class sizes;Letter

24th December 1999 at 00:00
The fantasy politics of Labour's education spokespersons are beginning to mix a disturbing Brave New World note into the irritatingly laughable loony tune which we all know and despise. However, Danny McCafferty's "task force" to retire "burnt-out teachers" would never have featured in novels by Kafka or Orwell - they would have considered it so dependent upon naive credulity as to insult the intelligence of their readers.

"Burn out" is a function of the mind, so we cannot expect New Labour spokespersons to know much about it, but even then, Mr McCafferty's stupidity is breathtaking. An education system for the youngsters in our community which bars the over-55s and all their experience of real life and work because they are too old to "hack it", to quote the decorous convener of Cosla's education committee? A solution to the "angst", "stresses", "strains" and "burn outs" in removing those deemed (by whom?) unfit to put up with it? No question of removing the causes? It's the victims who are to blame?

Where did Mr McCafferty escape from? Is this the same fellow whose last championing of "reality" attracted the support of 2 per cent of teachers? He is beginning to cast as long and creepy an animated shadow over the educational landscape as his erstwhile colleague Ross Martin of Falkirk West, the man who changed a Labour vote of 22,772 into 6,319, thereby proving that it is not only in Ireland that the dead vote.

Let's zap these monsters with a bit of reality. Presumably "burn out" is a consequence of overwork in poor working conditions. The real solution for the big grown-up world which teachers and other real people inhabit, is very simple and is backed up by academic research. Class sizes must be halved and teachers must be provided with timetables which comprise 50 per cent teaching and 50 per cent preparation, correction and development time. Or would that cost real money, Mr McCafferty, rather than fantasy money spent on retirement deals which insult the heroes of your party's impossible education service?

Tony McManus, Scottish Association of Teachers of Language and Literature, Edinburgh.

EIS canvass, page 3

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