Teachers deserved Ascot day

11th July 2003 at 01:00
I Am an Australian primary teacher currently in the UK on long service leave. Last week I bought The TES to gauge what's going on in education here. The article on the staff day at Ascot races stopped me dead in my tracks (TES, June 27).

Your report said Westborough primary's unorthodox training day met with tabloid outrage. Having taught in the UK for two years, I'm well aware of the way tabloids sensationalise and politicise issues, often putting teachers and schools in their sights. I give my full support to the school in their decision.

In my home state of Victoria we have a public holiday on the first Tuesday in November for Melbourne Cup Day. The vast majority of schools in the state arrange a pupil-free day on the Monday preceding "Cup Day". This creates a four-day weekend.

Like Westborough, schools ensure all staff attend the equivalent amount of professional development outside of school hours. This is the norm rather than the exception and it is supported by the vast majority of parents.

Teachers earn the day in lieu of time already served.

Those in the media who find it difficult to report on such items without bias or balance probably won't have read deputy head-teacher Gerri Bennett's defence of the trip on the letters pages of the same issue of The TES.

British teachers work harder than most, under unrelenting pressure from all sides and with little thanks or recognition. Working in challenging school environments often exacerbates this unless there is a strong infrastructure of support. Without such support from leadership and colleagues, teaching can be a lonely and unfulfilling profession.

Yes, Gerri, your staff are your most expensive and most valuable asset.

Happy, cohesive and supported staff make a productive and dynamic school.

Should we expect anything less for our students?

Phillip Cristofaro

Leading teacher

Brunswick East primary school Stewart St, Brunswick East,

3057 Melbourne

Victoria, Australia

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