Our long holidays are not for sale

12th December 1997 at 00:00
Am I and my colleagues alone in being pole-axed by the media talk concerning the reduction in teacher holidays? Is anyone else deeply concerned by a proposed erosion of the only favourable condition in our terms of contract?

In this very publication I looked for evidence of outrage at Tony Blair's newest plan - but found none.

Is this really a case of "this is a Labour government and therefore everything they do is to the good of education"?

I am totally opposed to any reduction in the length of holidays to 27 days a year with or without the "compensatory" increase in pay which may be offered. I hope that my professional association will stridently oppose this measure. Here are just a few of my reasons.

Any compensatory pay-rise offered would have to be enormous (Pounds 10, 000 plus) if it is to draw us in line with other comparable professions not blessed with long holidays.

We could not be assured that even a large pay rise would not be allowed to devalue over ensuing years, as has been the case over the past 20 years. Holidays do not devalue with inflation.

Ours is a highly skilled and very stressful occupation; reduction in holiday would lead only to more stress-related absence, early-retirement and even lower morale.

Children are harder to motivate at the end of any term, long or short; reduction in holiday, or worse still, the creation of a four-term year, would only exacerbate this "dead time".

Length of holiday is one of the few attractions of the profession (given the low rewards, innovation fatigue and unremitting public mauling suffered by teachers at every turn). Reduction of holidays will alienate teachers who are parents, who serve in voluntary community activities, who are involved in academic study.

As a consequence, new teachers will be harder to keep. Good professionals are already questioning whether to continue should this latest threat be carried out. There will always be more money in easier jobs elsewhere if that is what the Government considers to be our motivation.

Many of us feel that in choosing teaching, we have chosen quality of life over big money rewards. If the goal-posts are now moved, there will be very bitter feelings of having made the wrong choice.

Unlike all other jobs, teachers are unable to choose when they wish to have time off. Presumably if our holidays were to be reduced to levels comparable with other professions, we would also be able to choose when to take our allotted time?

This idea has come about purely and simply from a Government determined to show the ever-critical public that it is doing something to improve education, as well as to fill vacancies in the short-term using a marginally more attractive wage cheque to attract more graduates; but will it really want to stick at it?

BEVERLY SAUNDERS

17 Hall Close Blackfordby Derbyshire

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