Time for a break for teachers

The sun is finally out, the windows are wide open in the Mango office – is it too keen to hope that summer might finally be on its way?

The general consensus if you were to ask for people’s memories of their summers as children is bound to be about the six week summer holiday which seemed to stretch forever. There has been great debate however in recent years as to whether school holidays, especially the summer break, are too long.

Nottingham city council has already announced plans to cut the summer holidays to four weeks instead of six, and to split the school year into five terms. They say that the school holidays are too long and that children from poorer families can fall behind because of the lengthy summer break.

A few weeks ago my colleague Joanna shared her thoughts on why the school summer holiday should stay, with great memories of her never-ending summer breaks, and argued that the increased pressure on children to perform sees them need time out.

I wanted to add my thoughts on why it is more than just the children who need the school break – what about the teachers?

My parents are both teachers in an over-subscribed secondary school. For many people, the thought of being a teacher must be great – finishing for the day at 3.30pm, and long holidays on top of that! However, having grown up with my parents and their friendship group of colleagues, the reality is very different. My Dad is almost never home before 7pm, and last half term he spent every day at school getting lesson plans/marking/equipment ready. Experience tells me that he is not alone in working a huge amount of unpaid ‘overtime’; often his department will work late for weeks on end, staying behind as deadlines close in and students begin to panic about finishing their work in time.

Former teacher and educational researcher Dr Kevin Eames says the pressures of teaching are very intense and draining: “Teachers I’ve worked with who have come in from law, finance and journalism have commented that it is the most demanding, tiring and busy thing they have ever done.”

School holidays, and in particular the summer break (of which on average three weeks I would imagine will be spent either in school or doing work for school) are therefore the only opportunity for a well-earned rest!

Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers agrees: “Despite official figures showing that the average teacher works more than 11 hours of unpaid overtime each week, despite most teachers having to prepare and mark work in the evening and at weekends and despite many teachers voluntarily coming in during school holidays because they care about the future of their pupils, the Secretary of State says that schools should be open longer.”

The move to change school holidays could be a big blow to a profession that really does deserve a break!

What are your thoughts?

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