It shouldn't be news to anyone

TONY Wells was obviously irritated by what he sees as double standards in education – the Draconian policy [his words] of insisting students attend school in term time and the existence of INSET days.

TONY Wells was obviously irritated by what he sees as double standards in education - the 'Draconian policy' [his words] of insisting students attend school in term time and the existence of INSET days.

He probably does not appreciate the inherent undermining of one of his gripes by the conclusion he draws that training could fall into (his words) 'holiday breaks?

Surely (he continues) the best part of 12 weeks close down of school per year' should be used for training.

Perhaps so Mr Wells, and then again, perhaps not. I don't know what Tony Wells does for a living - and therefore am unclear what his training needs are - but most professional training in this country occurs during the working year. Has Tony wells undertaken training during his holiday times?

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The school year is established in law - it will last for 195 days, of which children are required to attend for 190. The other five are training days. So, perhaps the logic of what Mr Wells says is that we educators could do two at the start of term, three at the end (or other way round). Funnily, this is part of the pattern. Some of these days are also reshaped into what are called twilight sessions - a day split into say three extended work sessions in the year amounting to the same time. But, there is a balance - there really is something to gain by having quality time for all staff in a school to work on improvement and development. When setting these days (set by the Governors incidentally), it is the usual practice to ensure such closures coincide with other known events - such as elections. My own school has one INSET day at the start of the year and two right at the end. One is end-on to a half-term break and the other - yes, red handed I'm afraid - is at the end of June; this is a really good time to do some essential work in preparation for next year. So is this really the problem?

No - it is Mr Wells' dislike of being told not to take his children out of school for holidays in term-time. Ah but, Mr Wells there are all those weeks of school closure to choose from. I do have sympathy with some one-off, special events when I am asked to use my discretion but in general the requirement to send children to school in term-time should be rigorously upheld.

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One does know, when one is having a family that during their school years children will, by law, be required to attend; it shouldn't be news to anyone.

I get no end of representations from families about the educative nature of travel and quality family time. I thoroughly agree - and should be undertaken out of term-time. Parents have an obligation to their children not to disrupt their learning.

Oh, and one last thing; if Mr Wells or anyone else thinks school closure time amounts to a complete cessation of work for teachers and their colleagues, they have absolutely no notion of the working life of those in education; INSET days are not about individual marking and preparation loads, of mugging up on new syllabi or reacting to the plethora of initiatives that tumble from the Government's various quangos and think-tanks.

When teachers are 'at work', they are largely unable to meet these demands because they are in front of their pupils, teaching.

So, I urge Mr Wells to calm down and accept the reality of these matters and not some distorted perception.


Head Teacher, Churchill

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