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It may be time to look again at the place of inset days in a school calendar; Western Mail.

NOBODY would argue that continual professional development is crucial for education standards. But once more at this time of year, the need for so-called inset days - days set aside for teachers to train, reflect and plan - is being questioned.

One only had to run a search on Twitter yesterday to get a taste of the inset day disgruntlement of many parents.

Some were angry that they had to find an extra day or days' childcare, others enjoyed the supplementary time with their children.

For hardworking families the inset day at the start of school term is a pain, and often a costly one.

The Welsh Government has a balancing act here. On the one hand it has the needs of a profession - a profession at the forefront of educating the nation's next generation. On the other hand, there are the needs of businesses and parents.

There is a genuine need for teachers to remain up to speed with latest developments in education, to stay at the top of their game and to ensure children are getting the best possible schooling.

But there is also a need for businesses to be able to function and for parents to carry on their working lives so they can properly provide for their youngsters.

Before the inset day was conceived by Tory Education Minister Kenneth Baker in the 1980s Thatcher government, one wonders how teachers coped.

If there is a need now for continual professional development, then there surely was a need before Mr Baker invented his "Baker days", as they were once known.

Clearly things have moved on and it is better for professions at the frontline of public service delivery to be equipped as well as they can.

Perhaps then, Wales' Education Minister Leighton Andrews can investigate the feasibility of incorporating this training into normal school terms, and ask if there is a possibility of schools starting on the first day of term.

Those inside the education establishment argue that an inset day in September is absolutely necessary to ensure quality teaching is delivered to our young people.

They are the best placed to know that. But it is not surprising that outsiders may be cynical that after six weeks of holiday - more than most private sector workers get in a year - teachers spend their first day in school without any pupils.

Above all in this debate is the need for better communication between schools and parents over when inset days are held. The timing of these days is for the most part down to each school.

A period of notice that may seem long to a school may not be anywhere enough for a worker in a small business.

Perhaps this is the right time to reassess the place of the inset day in the school calendar.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Calendar
Date:Sep 6, 2011
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