Teachers in Sheffield schools give so many opportunities for our children to experience foreign travel, it really is something that should be celebrated.
From languages trips to practice speaking French and German in mainland Europe, right through to business-based visits to New York and charitable visits to Kenya. Teachers across South Yorkshire are giving up their weekends and in some cases their holidays to offer these exciting trips to our young people.
A large number of teachers now work part time and many of them are involved in overnight trips
Not all of them are available to all students. Some of the more glamorous overseas trips can cost the best part of £1000, which is something many of our disadvantaged families will not be able to afford.
But help is often available in meeting some of the cost, and many of these trips are oversubscribed from the moment they are announced in assembly. I’ve been on foreign trips with students, and the first myth to lay to rest is that it’s a holiday for the teachers. It’s no such thing.
Taking 40 children to Spain is in no way a break for the teachers responsible. It’s hard work. And it’s a job that covers all 24 hours in the day.
I chose to do it so I could provide a great opportunity to the children and help them with their studies in a way that classroom lesson cannot match.
Truth be told, I would much rather have been at home with my family instead of looking after somebody else’s children during one of my half-term breaks.
There is so much good will involved when teachers run a trip in their own time, but it’s something many people are starting to take for granted. It’s certainly something that managers at one South Yorkshire secondary school take for granted.
This week, teachers who work part time at one school have been told they will not receive an extra day’s pay if they are on a trip during their day off. Previously, if a teacher worked four days a week and had Friday as a day off, they would have been paid for an extra day if they were, say, taking a trip to Prague that involved a term-time Friday.
It was common sense. We are trained professionals. You can’t have a situation where three full-time teachers are getting paid for that Friday while the part-time member of staff gives up their time gratis.
Many people in other sectors would not work during their weekend or holidays without some sort of remuneration, yet teachers accept they put on these trips as part of their good will and ask for no extra cash at the weekend or in their holiday.
But making a conscious, mean-spirited decision not to pay teachers for working Monday-Friday during term time is an act of staggering divisiveness.
It’s an example of academy managers taking advantage of the power given to them by the post-Gove education system and abusing it.
Run these exhausting trips for no extra money, they tell us, and we should think ourselves lucky that we have the opportunity.
It’s a step too far, that will ultimately have a negative impact on one group of people – the students.
A large number of teachers now work part time and many of them are involved in overnight trips, in the UK as well as abroad. Clearly, any of these teachers with any sense will refuse to participate in any trip that involves them working for free.
That’s going to result in some trips not going ahead, or full-time members of staff being asked to go on more than their fair share.
It’s a nonsensical decision to make. The money it costs to pay part-time staff running trips abroad is peanuts and, pound for pound, there are few expenditures that result in a more productive experience for children.
And yet we’re living in a time when it’s becoming normal for senior leadership teams in schools to make the kind of management decisions that would not seem out of sorts in Victorian times.
Thankfully, most head teachers see the value of part-time staff giving up their days off to run overnight trips and they have no problem paying them for their hard work.
But if you’re at a school where they expect you to work on your day off for no extra money, you need to deliver them a firm message.
It’s not acceptable for the good will of teachers to be taken advantage of in this way.