If the job's that good no one will leave

11th June 2004 at 01:00
Recently, a Breton teacher stayed at our home and, after being asked about her conditions of work, she said: "Ah! I have a good job."

She was looking forward to the last two weeks of the school year with a total of 20 hours teaching time. Usually, she had 18 hours a week contact time during which she delivered lessons in her given subject. She did not cover for other teachers and had no responsibilities as a form teacher. The rest of her working week was spent preparing and marking.

I have known her for 10 years and have not once heard her complain about her job. She is enthusiastic about her work but is relaxed because she is given enough time to complete it effectively.

I have felt for a long time that, in Wales, we should be looking towards Europe regarding the working conditions of teachers. This feeling has intensified now that teachers will probably be expected to teach until they are 65 before drawing their full pension. It is obvious to me that under present conditions teachers in Wales will not survive until they are 65.

So the UK government is willing to discuss more flexible arrangements at the end of a teacher's career. But how about making sure that teachers enjoy their whole career so much that they don't want to retire until they have to because of old age?

When control for the working conditions of teachers returns to Wales let us not be content with basking in the candlelight of small variations to English legislation. We should start afresh to ensure that the education system in Wales once again has the most contented and efficient workforce on the continent.

This needs a change of culture where the cream of our society are proud to enter a profession that is revered, and where they obtain great job satisfaction without having to be exhausted workaholics.

Instead of gasping with envy when I hear anecdotes from our Celtic cousins, I look forward to speaking with pride of an education system that offers excellent working conditions.

In the meantime, every teacher in Wales should attend the rally in London on June 19 to show the Government that teachers cannot survive 45 years in the classroom. And let's work on the government in Cardiff to ensure that teachers do not want to leave the classroom after 45 years - because they "Ah! have a good job".

Moelwyn Gwyndaf is general secretary of UCAC (Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru), the Welsh teachers' union

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