Getting the chemistry right
Using holidays to better oneself professionally is, in some quarters, trahison des clercs, abandoning traditional rights and undermining colleagues. What the McCrone committee has recommended - a sacrifice of five days in the interests of self-development - is controversial and therefore not to be introduced willy-nilly for those who might not be punctilious in defending their seven weeks' freedom.
Teaching is stressful and tiring. Some people say they need a long summer's recuperation. For others there is a ditinction between holiday and refreshment. Chemistry teachers, like their colleagues in biotechnology for whom a summer course started last year, found that the opportunity to try out new activities and experiments in a university-standard laboratory, as well as informally share ways of tackling pupils' learning problems, amounted to professional reinvigoration - sufficient reward for a physically tiring week.
For the foreseeable future teachers are not going to be given sabbaticals like their university counterparts. After-school in-service or the occasional day-release conference does not add up to real professional development. It takes longer, better structured events, of which a summer school can be one. Building such benefits into a teacher's life will mean tackling one of the most controversial McCrone proposals and proving the distinction between repose and refreshment.