Seven-year itch;Leading Article;Opinion

3rd September 1999 at 01:00
MOSAIC law decreed that the Israelites' land must lie fallow every seventh year. Today, it is Israeli teachers who are rejuvenated by this ancient tradition. They get sabbaticals every seventh year - on two-thirds of their normal salary.

Last year's Green Paper suggested that a similar deal might be offered to teachers in England, but discussions on continuing professional development now taking place in Sanctuary Buildings suggest that Government thinking on paid sabbaticals is at a very early stage.

The proposals contain the mixture of "pressure and support" that we have come to expect from this administration.Ministers are keen that teachers should have a contractual duty to keep themselves up to date; in return they might be guaranteed a sum of money to invest in their professional development.

The unions are wary of such proposals, fearing that teachers will be asked to make a financial contribution. But "individual teacher development accounts" would at least mean that the amount of in-service training a teacher received would be less dependent on the whim of a headteacher or the health of a school's budget. That would represent some progress.

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