SPRING is on its way and I have just seen the first teacher bashing letter of the season: ‘Use school holidays for inset days’ (Echo Letters, April 10).
The writer may be interested to know that inset days are in fact holidays which were taken away from teachers by Thatcher and Baker in the 1980s.
Back then, all schools were given five ‘Occasional Days’ which were set aside to celebrate national or local events. In this area, for example, one was always allocated to the Southampton Show, which had a significant input from local schools. Nationally, royal births, marriages, deaths etc were favourite occasions to be commemorated. These five days were withdrawn as part of the policy of weakening state-run services followed to this day by Conservative governments.
They were replaced by compulsory In Service Training (inset) days, commonly known as ‘Baker days’, for the teachers. However, they remained holidays for the pupils. It is therefore silly to say that teachers have somehow deprived pupils of five days of education and that these should be made up by making pupils attend school for an extra week and for teachers to lose another week’s holiday!
The five days have become used for specific purposes during the school year, often tied into exam work and preparation and would be ineffective if held in the school holidays or in a block during term time.
It should also be remembered that teachers are not paid for the bank holidays included in the long school holidays, and they are never allowed to profit from taking cheap holidays during term time.
Another, unrecognised, problem for teachers when parents take their children away during term time is that they are expected to set work for pupils to do on holiday and then mark it when they return. That’s not too bad if there are only a couple of pupils involved. But what about if it is four or five pupils per class?