Heads urged to avoid four-day-week option

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Sending pupils home for a day adds to teachers' workloads and upsets parents. Warwick Mansell and Sarah Cassidy report.

THE chairman of governors of a school which was forced to adopt a four-day week last term has warned heads: "Avoid it if you possibly can."

The message from Les Smith, of Corby Community College, came as several schools spent the first week of term scrambling to avoid having to send pupils home.

Corby was forced to adopt a four-day timetable for pupils last October because the school was seven teachers short. But Mr Smith said the move had added to teachers' workloads and was unpopular with parents. He said teachers at the Northamptonshire comprehensive had had to teach a full five-day week, as well as preparing and marking additional work for pupils to do on their "day off".

Some parents resented having to take time off work to look after children who had been sent home. Some had complained that their child's "homework" could be finished in 20 minutes, others that it was too hard.

The college was able to revert to a normal timetable in November. It opened as normal this week with five new permanent teachers.

Mr Smith said: "If other schools are facing this possibility, I would say do all you can to avoid it."

Mr Smith's warning comes as several schools reported going to extraordinary lengths to fill vacancies.

At Holywells hih, in Ipswich, head Barrie Whelpton was forced to draft in two advisory teachers from the local authority, as the school struggled to replace six teachers who left before Christmas.

At Hreod Parkway secondary, in Swindon, Wiltshire, pupils will be sent home an hour early one day a week from next week to give teachers "filling in" for vacant posts extra preparation time.

And at Headlands school, also in Swindon, which last term warned it might have to run a four-day week, younger pupils have been sent home for one afternoon each this week because four posts remain unfilled.

As yet there have been no reports of a school adopting a four-day week this term. But industrial action could mean pupils being sent home, the second largest teaching union has warned. The warning, from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, comes after teachers at Christ Church school, Barnet, north London, voted to refuse to cover for vacancies and illness, after the secondary started term with eight teaching vacancies. Five young teachers are being flown in from South Africa and are due to start on Monday.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said there would also be a ballot at Bishop Reindorp comprehensive, in Guildford, Surrey, where he claimed pupils were being taught in a class of 90 after the school started the term seven teachers short.

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