I'd rather be called 'professeur'

24th January 1997 at 00:00
The content of your article on the stress levels of teachers in France compared with their English colleagues (TES, January 10) will come as no surprise to any teacher who has experienced the conditions across the Channel.

In the secondary phase lycee or college, the average teacher is no better paid than his or her English counterpart and classes are not particularly small, but the similarity in conditions of service tends to end there. French teachers are contracted for a specific number of hours and that is all they work, leaving time free for other paid employment or stress-free leisure time off the school premises.

Staff are to be seen coming and going at all hours of the day with no question of staying for directed time, corporate activities or voluntary supervision of school clubs or teams after school hours. While teaching, disruptive children can be sent to the senior staff specifically employed for the purpose of handling problems, leaving the teacher to focus on education.

If this were not stress-relieving enough, it is interesting to see that education is highly esteemed by most parents, and thus by their children. Parents are usually highly supportive of academic and disciplinary standards imposed by good schools.

Furthermore, a large degree of central funding is used in such a way that the great regional variations in pupil-teacher ratios, class sizes and resourcing - so obvious in England - are much less evident. Curricular innovations are, by and large, supported with new money and not imposed to be paid for from existing budgets and the goodwill of already overloaded teaching staff.

While our French colleagues have gripes and moans about their own educational system, it is hardly surprising that they are able to bear these problems with much less threat to their health than is the case here. The French system is by no means ideal, but how many English teachers would leap at the chance to exchange their conditions of service for those of their French counterparts?

STUART BAINBRIDGE

5 Eddleston Avenue Newcastle upon Tyne

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