Editor's comment

15th January 2010 at 00:00

The prolonged wintry conditions have been extreme, so it is a long time since thousands of teachers have struggled to get into school through snow and ice. Many council proto-cols date back to pre-council reorganisation in 1996. In the days of the Strathclyde and Lothian megaliths, it was relatively straight-forward to tell teachers to report to their nearest educational establishment if their school was closed or inaccessible. With 32 councils, and many teachers living in an authority other than their workplace, matters are more complicated. It is time, therefore, for teachers' local negotiators in each of the authorities to review their working arrangements at times of very bad weather and reach a commonsense consensus.

There is no need to employ a sledge-hammer to smash a nut - as Moray appears to have done with a potentially inflamma-tory letter warning unconscientious teachers they risk having their pay docked if they don't try strenuously to make it to work. Technically, the points the council makes about teachers having a contractual obligation to be available for work are irrefutable. In reality, the letter is a red rag to a bull. A teacher who cites the weather as an excuse for non-attendance when everyone else makes it into work is likely to be on the headteacher's radar anyway.

The question can reasonably be asked, however: why should teachers not be exempt from attendance when pupils don't have to go to school? The argument runs that the risks of snow, ice and extreme cold are greater for children than adults. That, presumably, is why most councils expect teachers to attend their nearest school if they can't go to their own. Some schools might welcome a new face, ready to cover the class of an absent staff member; others, however, might find new arrivals a nuisance and wish they had stayed at home to do some forward planning or marking - if only their employers would simply trust them.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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