What keeps me awake at night

If Sir Richard Branson wants a cause, try this

James Henry

During the summer holidays, I filled in my educational diary for the year ahead with all the compulsory training days that have been allotted to me: the day before term starts, for example, or the day after it finishes, and further sessions that always seem to fall on a Monday or a Friday.

In teachers' hierarchy of gripes, having to train on these days is second only to having to book holidays in the summer when prices are at their most exorbitant.

Training on a Monday or a Friday means that savvy parents can enjoy a long weekend with their families while teachers are stuck in a room doing CPD. When was the last time a teacher had a "long weekend"? Most have only one day of relaxation per weekend; the other is swallowed up preparing for school.

And for some pupils from chaotic homes and those at risk, including students with special educational needs, the effects of the extra day off can be devastating. For a child avoiding an alcoholic or aggressive father, or a mother run ragged by hyperactive offspring, that third day might tip the situation into a crisis.

So what would help me to sleep better at night? If Richard Branson, rather than harping on about headteachers financially penalising families who take time out for off-peak holidays, were to use his influence to get the government to shift training days to a Wednesday. Then the problems outlined above would disappear.

If schools coordinated their Wednesdays for the benefit of families with children at different schools in the local area, so much the better.

And if Sir Richard was able to persuade the education secretary of the merits of reforms to the school year - to get away from premium-rate holidays for anyone attached to a school - then he might well find more teachers sitting in his airline seats.

With a shorter summer holiday and longer half-terms, I could end up flying out on the same plane as a family that, under the current system, would have bunked off from my lessons for two weeks.

James Henry is a teacher in the Home Counties

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James Henry

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