Head Lines with Jonny Mitchell: Hypocrisy of holiday heads beggars belief

HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.

Thornhill Community Academy’s straight-talking headteacher Jonny Mitchell showed the world what life in the classroom is really like in the award-winning TV documentary series Educating Yorkshire.

Now he writes exclusively for us:

I am often overwhelmed with requests from parents to take their children on holiday during term-time. On the vast majority of occasions, these requests are refused, as regulations state that they should only be authorised in exceptional circumstances. Sometimes parents find it hard to stomach.

It is hard to argue sometimes, though, with the definition of extenuating circumstances when a handful of people running schools, and being paid in some cases huge sums of money, feel they are above such propriety and take a week off here and there, during term-time, for the purposes of a family holiday, a winter ski-trip or, in one case, their own wedding abroad. All with the approval of their governors.

I don’t want to sound like I write for the Daily Mail, (although I know I am risking it) but some of the stories I read never fail to confound me. One headteacher was reportedly granted two weeks’ leave

during the autumn term to go skiing – and the reason given by the chair of governors? He works really hard the rest of the year and deserves the time off.

You what?! Because, obviously, other teachers don’t work hard during the rest of the year.

Yes, we know, there is always a mass exodus of teachers at 4pm on the last day of the summer term down to the south of France for six weeks, and not one of them thinks about work until the first day back.

The world really has changed since then. Most teachers get, at most, six “real” weeks of holiday, and not the 13 weeks people think they do.

Of course, teachers are entitled to have all 13 if they want – it’s just not practical most of the time. And I don’t know any teachers that leave their work “at work”. Many of them are doing another 25 hours at least on evenings and weekends (around three days’ work...)

Which is why the notion of allowing the head to have extra time is so obviously ludicrous.

I can just imagine ringing my chair of governors right now:

“Do you know what, Brian, I’m a bit knackered, could do with a break. I know it’s four weeks until Easter, but I thought I might get away and recharge my batteries, enjoy myself. I’m a bit stressed out.”

“Yeah, that’s fine, Jonny. Whatever! Have a good time, see you when you get back!”

I genuinely hope in cases where this has happened, the gheads have at least foregone their pay for their time off – but I would be surprised.

It really almost beggars belief. One head was given four weeks during term time (which ran directly into a holiday as well) to celebrate her own wedding and honeymoon.

Most teachers get married on a weekend or during the holidays. And they certainly wouldn’t be paid for taking time off to get married. Most other people in other jobs would face the same, I’m sure.

Which brings me back to my original point, or sort of, at least. We keep telling kids they cannot go on holiday during term-time. We know all the reasons why this is advantageous, including the cost of holidays at peak times. But our hands are largely tied.

I could not imagine sunning myself on a beach or partying in the Med for a week knowing the school was open; and I am surprised, and disappointed, that there are schools where this happens. At a time when there is so much hypocrisy about, surely those of us in education should be doing everything we can to change attitudes.