Teachers need more time off: Ofsted

Bad Teacher Cameron DiazPA

There are those who would argue that teachers already have an easy enough life. They would say that a working day of 9-3 and the endless school holidays - roughly three times as long as the average employee's holiday allowance - constitute plenty of time off already.

These particular people will be stunned to hear that Sir Michael Wilshaw, who becomes the head of Ofsted in 2012, has argued that teachers need an opportunity to take a break from it all for a long stretch if it all gets too much for them.

Tough job

Wilshaw's argument is that frankly teaching is tough. He points out that standing in front of a class and delivering for five or six hours a day is more demanding than sitting at a desk or shuffling bits of paper for seven hours.

It's hard to argue with this. Most parents find it hard enough keeping a couple of kids on the straight and narrow, let along herding 30 of them together and trying to engage them with something they have little or no interest in. And while the average employee can struggle into work with a hangover or have an off day, teachers have to be 'on' all the time.

Vital role

Then there's the fact that the job these teachers are doing is more vital than the typical employee. Most people can coast at their job, underperforming for years without causing any real damage. If a teacher does this, they are leaving a gaping hole in the education of at least 30 young people.

Most teachers would add to this that they don't work 9-3. Add in the meetings, planning, marking and commitments after school or at the weekend, and most are working at least 9-6 every day - if not longer.

Burned out

Wilshaw says that because the job is so demanding, many teachers are utterly burned out, and need paid time away from the classroom. He suggests schools allow teachers a couple of months off in order to refocus their energies and return with renewed enthusiasm for the task.

This went down well with some teachers and their unions. In fact the National Association of Head Teachers is planning to establish a fund for head teachers who want to take a paid sabbatical.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Those who think teachers have an easy life will point out that they already have a six week break every year - which for most working people would itself constitute a sabbatical. They will argue that nobody forced these people to become teachers, and if they don't like the nature of the work they are far from alone in their situation - they just need to put up with it or retrain.

But what do you think? Do the teachers have it too easy already? Or is this a great new development to help teachers doing a very tough job? Let us know in the comments.
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