Why holidays abroad are such a foreign concept

25th May 2007 at 01:00
John Cattermole is a Deputy Head In Cambridgeshire

"Teachers' holidays ...", "Wish I had 13 weeks a year ...", "Are you off work again?" These "sweet refrains" are so often endured by many of the nation's 400,000 teachers. Yet, for me, any holiday, especially the six-week summer break, leaves a distinctly bitter-sweet taste.

Despite being deputy headteacher of a 400-pupil primary school, I cannot afford to take my family on holiday. Those 13 weeks, which offer so much potential and so many possible opportunities, experiences and memories, leave me feeling frustrated and angry.

It's not just going abroad; we can't afford even a two-week break in the UK. And if someone almost at the top of our profession can't afford to take their family on holiday, then there must be many more teachers in a similar situation.

My eldest boy, who is seven, asked me yesterday where we were going this year. And once again, it will be camping for a few days in the UK. We had planned to visit relatives in Sweden, but had to cancel. Meanwhile, he has an increasing number of school friends for whom Disneyland Paris, Spain or even further afield are becoming the norm each summer.

I try to keep positive, but at times my frustration increases to anger at the opportunities being denied my children.

It is a two-pronged weapon that stops us journeying across the sea in the summer. One is my public-sector wage, but the other is the extortionate price of flights or crossings abroad during the summer break. The cost of many such trips seem to triple or even quadruple the moment the end of July arrives.

Then there is the issue of term-time holidays. So far this year, 10 children from my Year 5 class have taken holidays during school time, and there will be more before the end of the year. Blank spaces on registers are an increasing trend and it is often the only way parents can afford to go abroad with their children.

This, of course, is not the case if you are a teacher, tied as we are to the calendar of term dates, and then denied the opportunity of foreign travel as soon as term ends.

As a languages graduate who is trying to teach his children foreign languages at home, I find the situation cruel and soul-destroying at times.

My children love learning to speak a few words of Spanish or Swedish, but, for the foreseeable future, they are as far from visiting these countries as journeying to the moon.

My only hope is a substantial pay rise (highly unlikely, given Gordon Brown's obsession with keeping public sector pay "under control") or some affordable deals in August.

Surely, there is a huge potential niche in the market for a company to offer cheap summer travel to teachers? Am I the only one of the 400,000 who hopes so?

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