Everyone with school age children seems to have an opinion on those five, apparently randomly spaced days off school that we get every year. For working parents they can prove to be very inconvenient or expensive; for those who would love a day out with the children when many attractions are quiet, they are a godsend; but what are they for, and why do we have them?
According to the Government’s website, INSET days are “an important tool for head teachers to help their staff keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date”. Some staff may attend one-day courses to enable them to do their jobs better; sometimes schools may hold training in-house; sometimes the days are used for curriculum planning.
It has the benefit of giving an opportunity for all the teaching staff to be together at one time, and for some of this time, to train together. The government justifies closing schools to do this by stating that: “This is very much in the same way that other professions undertake a certain element of training and development during their contracted hours”.
However, these extra days cause difficulties for working parents. For most full-time employees, their annual holiday allocation of around 25 days per year does not even cover holidays and half terms, so the addition of five extra days spaced through the year undoubtedly compounds the problem.
Parents who take jobs in education to try to alleviate the problem can find that they fall foul of INSET days too, because their organisation does not have the same days off, or they are expected to attend for training. Many parents have to rely on the goodwill of friends or relatives, or may have to pay for childcare for those days.
Some parents, however, love them. Because the timing of INSET days is at the discretion of each individual school, it is often the case that your school may be the only local school to be closed that day. As a result, this can offer an opportunity to have a day out when a particular attraction is virtually empty; such a day can be much more enjoyable and less stressful, with less queueing and easier parking. Some days out may even be cheaper at that time.
Love them or hate them, INSET days are here to stay. They were created by Conservative Education Secretary Kenneth Baker, so it seems unlikely that they will be abolished by any colour of Government. We all have to make the best of them. An extra day out is often a great option, but what if the weather is terrible, or you are on a tight budget? Here are some ideas for INSET days in.
Enjoy your INSET days.
text © Alexandra Freeman 2007
About the Author: Alex Freeman is a freelance writer specialising in parenting and family topics and can be contacted via eParenting.