We were sailing - but still fretting

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
I have just returned from a Mediterranean cruise. Perhaps a better way of describing my holiday would be a people-watching journey around the Med.

What a fabulous way to observe fellow cruisers as you eat your way from Southampton to Dubrovnik and back.

Education can be described as a journey full of experiences, and 2,000 strangers from across the UK were gathered together for this experience of a lifetime.

The children on board were very fortunate to be travelling, visiting places of interest, and learning about the geography, history, culture and political aspects of some of the best places in Europe - while enjoying luxury facilities. It soon became apparent, though, that some were more interested in the cruise-ship facilities and organised clubs than they were in the ports of call.

The ship was also full of teachers escaping school, planning and preparation. Conversations often turned to education. I was struck by how envious teachers in England are of our Welsh system. Far too often, one could hear people commenting on the years of angst they had suffered as a result of an Office for Standards in Education inspection. Others could not forget that they were returning to a visit from the dreaded inspectors.

The A-level and GCSE results triggered debate about standards, with some old buffers comparing them with their day. There were also the jaded teachers who berated their fellow staff and governors and the system in general.

There is a lot to be said for allowing teachers and heads to retire gracefully before they get too disillusioned. Has anyone researched how long it takes to grind down a young, talented and enthusiastic teacher into a stressed-out, burnt-out cynic?

A good leader sails hisher organisation towards its destination, the captain being sensitive to the conditions, enabling the staffcrew to work as a team, and taking advantage of the natural elements.

The cruise gave me time to recharge the batteries. Reality soon dawns, though. As we disembarked, I watched the preparations to restock the ship for the next cruise. It reminded me of the jobs to be done before term begins.

At least I am now a little more relaxed and ready to face an impending inspection under the new common framework, along with debates about exam results, standards and the rest.

Terry Williams is head of Litchard junior school, Bridgend. He writes here in a personal capacity

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