Inset days; why we have them
Anyone that doesn’t work in teaching or have children of a school age would probably never have heard of an Inset day. So perhaps we are well advised to start with…
…the history of the inset day
Inset is an acronym for IN-SErvice Training day, sometimes also referred to as a Baker day which; is a hefty clue as to which government introduced the professional training days for state schools.
That’s right it was the then Secretary of State for Education Kenneth Baker who allocated five days in the academic year for teacher and leader training as part of the Conservative Party’s Education Reform Act of 1988. Depending on how much of this is familiar or new to you, you were either in school as a pupil at that time, or teaching the class. And just to get you back in that zone the Christmas number one was Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe and Wine, yes, it was a very long time ago. The inset days are in addition to the statutory requirement to deliver 190 teaching days per academic year.
As well as introducing training days the Education Reform Act also imposed a National Curriculum, making it the heaviest intervention of schools and their management and in the twentieth century.
Views on the movable inset days are mixed, amongst educationalists and parents alike. School leaders can decide when to hold a professional day, which means closing the school to pupils during term time, and the ensuing disruption to child care for working parents and carers. The added complexity to inset days is that many teachers have children and face the same third-party child care challenges that non-school staff parents do.
Recently Head Mrs Barnett of Eveswell Primary School in Newport, South Wales made the national news, by grouping all five inset days together in June. The decision to take the days as one whole week in June, which added an extra five days to the Whitsun half term-holiday was premised on the opportunity for parents to be able to take more affordable holidays outside of term times. And comes in light of a sharp increase in fines for parents that take term time holidays.
Unsurprisingly Mrs Barnett’s decision has proved extremely popular with parents and teachers, who are able to plan long-term. But ultimately inset days are an opportunity for school staff to enhance their skills and develop their careers beyond curriculum work. And the pressure on teachers and leaders to keep pace of change from safeguarding children to changing examination formats is ever more earnest. Despite the disruption that training days can bring we would hope that educationalists allow themselves to enjoy a chance to spend time on their own career development goals.
Over to you.