Professionals deserve better

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Last month I needed to see our solicitor. Reluctant to leave work early, I asked for an evening appointment and, to my surprise, it was granted. I went home for a meal then to her office. Although my business took only 15 minutes, the solicitor had stayed around for two hours after the end of her working day, and had incurred childcare costs, which were not passed on to me. It seems the senior partner had insisted she keep our appointment.

After a working day, I was surprised that she had any energy left.

Fantasy? Yes, of course, but replace "solicitor" by "teacher" and you see a situation that is still all too prevalent.

When parents take professional advice on an important matter like a home purchase or having surgery, they expect to give up time in a working day to get advice from a professional.

Yet children's education is not valued as highly as home-buying, will-making or medical attention, and few headteachers will have enough respect for the professionals in their schools to put an end to this antiquated and unsatisfactory situation.

Strong words? I think not, and the benefits of change can be seen in schools where heads have had the courage to try "tutor days" or other imaginative schemes.

Is it too much to hope that ongoing discussions on conditions of service may finally bring about this much-needed reform? Perhaps the General Teaching Council can now turn its attention to the challenge.

Michael Cook

46 Hartington Road Brighton

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