From here to paternity

9th January 2009 at 00:00

There are two points relating to the issue of an increase in the number of teachers going on maternity leave ("Oh, mother", The TES Magazine, January 2) which I would like to bring up.

Firstly, the Department for Children, Schools and Families' dismissal of the problems lies in its failure to prepare for the fact that a generation of teachers, most of them men, were coming up to retirement.

Those supposedly in the know presumably chose to look the other way. Otherwise, they might have noticed the demographic and been able to formulate a contingency plan. This might have involved the middle generation of fortysomethings, for example, who could have been prepared for leadership responsibilities.

There is, consequently, a general absence of stability within education.

Second, while a young, female-dominated profession may be a factor in this, it may also provide a way forward. This would be in the form of paternity leave, which the Government could introduce in place of maternity leave.

I appreciate that this obviously belongs to a wider forum, but it could start here, in the field of education. Nor would it be unprecedented. Canada and Sweden are but two examples of countries that have paternity laws: in the case of the former, parents are given 35 weeks' paid leave to divide between them as desired, while in Sweden equal entitlement is given to both mother and father, the cost of which is shared by the state and the employer. It doesn't seem to have had any adverse affect on their schools, either.

A lot of finer points would need to be considered. But it would be a step forward in lessening the prejudice towards women of child-bearing age and the assumption that if they have children they would always take maternity leave.

There needs to be a stable, educative body of some kind. Contrary to appearances, young women may be the key to it.

Joanne Dwyer, Chelsfield, Kent.

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