INSET Days – A Pleasure Or A Pain?

by Alex Freeman

Do you love them or hate them?

Education

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.

  1. Have an all day games challenge. If your children like playing games, have a mini-olympics; (adults have to participate too!) create a chart for the results, awarding points to all participants in each game; each participant could chose one game to play their joker on for double points (like on It’s A Knockout). You could even make a trophy for the winner to be awarded at a grand prizegiving at the end of the day.
  2. Have an art and craft day. Most of us have kits to make things lurking around the house, paints and colouring books unused. If you don’t, then you could save up your recyling for a junk modelling challenge, perhaps with a theme, such as vehicles; or maybe create a village which could be planned, created and painted in one day.
  3. Older children could have a storywriting challenge. Everyone (adults too) are given the same opening line. Examples of great book openers can be found at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3894040, and you could borrow one of these, or make up your own. Have a grand storytelling over supper.
  4. Let the children plan, cook and serve a meal. Obviously adult supervision is a must, but even young children could be involved in planning, stirring, serving, maybe even making a menu card with pictures of the food to be served. If Daddy is coming home for tea, perhaps he could play along with the restaurant idea and be served by the children being waiters for the day.

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.








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