'Mean spirited' Scots veto holiday for Wills' big day

11th March 2011 at 00:00
Dedicated teachers put pupils' needs before royal merry-making

Perhaps it is because they are hundreds of miles away from the "event of the year", or maybe council bosses are suspicious of the whole affair.

But whatever the reason, on 29 April a small group of teachers and pupils in the further-flung corners of the UK will be hard at work at the chalkface rather than toasting Wills and Kate.

While millions celebrate the wedding, the school staff of the Highlands and the Shetlands will be treating the big day like any other after their council decided not to award them the day off, in a move dubbed "mean spirited".

Council politicians claim the bank holiday would cost local economies up to #163;600,000 in lost productivity.

But the teachers of Northern Scotland seem unperturbed by the prospect of working when their colleagues elsewhere are getting in the festive spirit.

Christopher Millar-Craig, head of Ardnamurchan High School in Strontian, the Highlands, has vowed that pupils will be in lessons like any other day.

"As a headteacher the most important thing I have to think about is exams. It is a very bad time for children to be taking time out of school - every day is crucial for them at the moment," he said.

"But I'm sure the royal wedding will be noted in one way or another in school," Mr Millar-Craig added.

His opinions were echoed by Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, who said the extra teaching time would be appreciated by his members.

"We are implementing a new three-18 curriculum, and nationally teachers have had extra days off to train for that. I can understand why heads, particularly in secondary schools, would not be keen for more disruption," he said.

"It is interesting that the councils which have decided not to have a bank holiday are those which are furthest away from where the royal wedding is happening."

But not all are happy that they must work through the big day. A spokesman for Unison Scotland, which represents non-teaching school staff, said: "Denying the workforce this holiday is mean spirited and penny pinching.

"We already have the smallest number of public holidays in Europe - it is not fair to hold back this one."


Fun for most

Department for Education officials have amended teachers' pay and conditions document so that English schools can "lawfully enjoy the free time occasioned by the royal event".

But hundreds of schools will already be closed on the big day, 29 April, if they have chosen a late Easter holiday, and some heads may not allow alternative time off.

Many independent school teachers might also miss out. Those who do have a day off then face a stressful two or three-day week immediately after Easter and just before the start of the exam season.

Teachers in Cheshire, Wirral, Manchester, East Riding in Yorkshire, Durham, Kirklees, Tameside and Bolton will have a day off in June or July instead - but only if their head agrees.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said: "This will be a disruptive time for teachers, but I'm sure they will be able to cope."

The change means that teachers will work 189 days this year instead of 190.

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