What will you be doing this summer?


As the summer approaches, teachers everywhere are preparing to take luxury breaks for six weeks and won't be thinking once about their students. Er, not quite, says Marion Gibbs.

The summer holidays are drawing closer; if we can just get through all those end of term reports and events we will be released into a life of sybaritic ease. Or that is what many of those not involved in education imagine.

Too often teachers are lambasted for their long school holidays, not to mention short working hours in term time! Of course, I am sure that almost all SecEd readers will have already booked their six-week luxury break in some far-flung sunny realm, where they will relax, eat, drink and be merry, with never a thought for education, schools or students. I am equally sure that your antennae will be well tuned to irony.

So what will I be doing during the summer holidays? For me, perhaps the best thing about holidays is not having to get up horribly early every morning, however late you may have been working the night before in order to meet your deadlines, finish some marking or writing a document. 

As something of an “owl”, I really appreciate the chance to catch up on some sleep. Reading for pleasure is something else which happens too rarely during term time. The summer break gives us a chance to catch up on reading both for work and for pleasure. 

Reading can be a brilliant form of escapism and a superb way to relax, but often it also leads to all sorts of fanciful, and sometimes really useful, thoughts about how to improve some aspect of one’s teaching or some area of school life. Having the time and space to think is a great benefit.

How many of us make lists or resolutions as to all the things we intend to achieve during the school holidays? This year I am determined to conquer the vast piles of paper, all of it read, but then left for filing or revisiting later, in my study both at home and at school – but then that was my resolution last year, too!

There are some really important things to do: spending time with friends and family; catching up with exhibitions, plays, films and music; pottering in the garden. I will indeed be spending a couple of weeks with friends abroad and making my annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Festival. 

However, headship does not stop during the holidays. Increasingly parents expect their queries and demands to be responded to throughout the year, at weekends, during the evenings and during holidays. I remain strong and keep my email turned off for most of the day when I am away from home on holiday, but I know many other heads and teachers who do not.

Nonetheless, I know that I will need to spend some time this holiday working on the updating of our self-evaluation form and making sure that all the school’s documentation is absolutely up-to-date and ready for any inspection. 

I will also be working on some exciting new plans for our Southwark Schools Learning Partnership and thinking about active research. Not least I need to put my mind to how exactly we can secure the millions of pounds that we need to build our Community Music Centre. So it certainly won’t be a dull time!

Teachers need holidays to recharge their batteries and to plan for the following year. If one was fortunate enough to be able to spend six weeks in a luxury resort or on a life-changing adventure in some far-flung place, then I am sure that it would not be wasted! 

Of course, for many of us it is not actually a six-week break as once the A level results arrive in mid-August, the school springs into life once more.

However, I am definitely looking forward to the summer break – all we really need now is a sustained period of sunshine!

  • Marion Gibbs is head of James Allen’s Girls’ School in south London.


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