Holiday time is out of joint

14th February 2003 at 00:00
AS half-term approaches, I'm looking forward to rest, some nights out - and getting my burst water pipes fixed.

You see, I began teaching in September and found a lovely old flat a few minutes' walk from work. Perfect. It was only once I'd moved in that I realised there was a tiny problem with teachers' holidays: we don't get to choose when to take them.

Please don't show this article to any non-teachers - a newly- qualified teacher whingeing about 13 weeks' holiday wouldn't go down well with anyone on (or not on) the 20-day statutory minimum.

But what do you do when your home gets too moist? In a normal job, if your pipes are showering the kitchen with effluent, you ring the boss and say you need time off.

But when you're teaching, you can't do that. One teaching friend's contract even states that he has "no specific holiday entitlement". More importantly, your pupils will either have to be taught by a supply teacher or split among other classes.

And it is not just the plumber. When can you get to the local sorting office to pick up an oversized package, or be in to take delivery of a washing machine? I've been using a launderette since my machine packed up at the beginning of January.

Arthur Andersen, the accountancy firm which cooked Enron's books, provided a concierge to house-sit for busy employees - paid for, no doubt, by their willingness to overlook problems in company accounts.

So perhaps teachers should overlook a few dodgy national test results, thereby reaching government targets. Charles Clarke might be so grateful that he'd sit in for you while those nice chaps from Sky TV installed your mini-dish.

Or maybe I'll just resign myself to buying washing machines in the holidays and only springing leaks in summer.

David Ogle is an NQT at Pooles Park primary in north London

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