Extending the school year would add to our burden;Letter

17th April 1998 at 01:00
Far from reducing the burden on teachers, Anita Higham's proposals for spreading their workload over a 45-week year would increase it (TES, April 3).

A large proportion of teachers already put in a day on the school premises from 8am to 5pm or later. In the new school day - apparently with one-and-a-half hours of guaranteed breaks, it will still be the teachers who have to undertake supervision duties, run clubs and activities in those breaks, put on the GCSE and A-level revision classes at lunch times. Pupils' needs cannot really be relegated to the time they spend in class, or even to the school day. Teachers will not be able to go home at 5pm every day. Parents' consultation evenings, presentation evenings, school concerts, plays, rehearsals, theatre trips, sports fixtures, inter-school competitions - these will not happen in the pupils' holiday time but, as they do now, in those 185 days of the students' terms.

Keeping teachers in school for additional hours and extending their terms is to treat them like office workers - but without the desks, let alone the offices. In the average school, where there is a shortage of staff workstations and storage space, most teachers would find lesson planning and preparation uncomfortable, if not impossible. With a full teaching complement on the premises for an additional six weeks, there would be a demand for the services of support staff, pushing up wage costs considerably.

Those schools which let their premises extensively in the evenings and in holidays would forgo revenue; those which do not would pay increased costs for energy and maintenance.

Teaching is not like working in an office: it is a service and we respond to the demands and needs of our pupils and their parents. The pressure which the term creates is acceptable, because the holidays allow teachers to recuperate both emotionally, from the many hundreds of daily interactions with young people, and intellectually from the challenge of organising and teaching their lessons. Without those physical and psychological breaks, even the most outstanding teachers will fail to give their best.

I have seen no evidence that young people of talent are deterred from teaching by the pattern of the school year. I see considerable evidence that poor facilities, relatively low pay and an unwillingness to fund state schools to an adequate level are turning our brightest graduates either towards the private sector or into other areas of employment.

JANE WAINWRIGHT

Headteacher Aylesbury High School 59 High Street Thame Oxfordshire

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