Covering for absence benefits no one

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
David Blunkett has apparently accused teachers of jeopardising children's one chance of education by refusing to cover for absent colleagues. What an odd thing to say considering that when a class whose teacher is absent is "split", as in primary schools, the education in several classes is jeopardised.

Surely he realises that these additional children cannot be actively taught while being cared for by another teacher, who has already spent hours planning a specific lesson for herhis own class?

Is he so detached from reality that he is unaware that these extra children frequently have to sit doing independent work using activity sheets or worksheets?

Who does he think marks the work or analyses it for future teaching needs? How does he think the children feel about these lessons? Why not send the class home with this independent work and prevent the damage to the host classes and teachers?

Surely tis would reduce the stress on the remaining staff, or don't they matter as long as the school provides a baby-sitting service?

Teachers too frequently have to split themselves into ever-tinier pieces trying to ensure every child gets a good deal each day. Does Mr Blunkett not realise that this constant stress is seriously jeopardising teachers' one chance of decent health, not to mention the adverse effects on their own families?

Wake up Mr Blunkett, teaching is in crisis. Guarantee a maximum of 90 per cent contact time for primary teachers so that they can assess pupils' ongoing work and carry out their vital role as subject managers. Guarantee half-a-day minimum non-contact time for teachers with a management role.

Then maybe teachers could teach effectively and still have spare capacity for those crisis times when a colleague is absent from work.

Mrs S Howard

Melbourne, Derbyshire

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