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Experts encourage review of teachers' leave entitlements

Published:Tuesday | January 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

Any changes to the leave entitlements of the nation's teachers must be done after stakeholder consultations, according to education interests.

In addition, at least two argue that this should be seen as only a small element of what is needed to massively improve the quality of the nation's education system.

Robert Wynter, managing director of Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates organisational transformation and leadership development, said stakeholders must resist a piecemeal approach to discussing the issue and frame the debate over teachers' leave arrangements within the context of the problems plaguing the education sector.

"Teacher leave policy is only one of several issues that impact overall performance. Any consultations with stakeholders should take the form of a holistic approach to increasing national education performance, with teachers' leave being only one component," Wynter argued.

"In other words, we need a strategic approach."

In making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament in May last year, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said that the cost of study and vacation leave to the Government is $2.5 billion per year and a further $574 million, at that time, was owed to schools for substitute teachers.

He argued that this was not sustainable and had to be changed in short order. However, the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) has not taken lightly the proposal to change the benefits, vowing that they would protest any change to these leave arrangements.

R. Howard Thompson, retired educator with more than 40 years' experience in the Jamaican education system, said while he agreed with the JTA's position, more could be done to eliminate the loopholes that currently exist.

"What is really needed is a tightening up of the present system," Thompson said.

"Too many people use the classroom as a stepping stone to other professions and become less effective teachers not focused on the job they are being paid to do," Thompson added.

study leave abuse

Addressing study leave specifically, he said the education ministry must move to change the way this is granted, as there are several teachers in the system who are abusing this for their own personal gain.

"Study leave should only be given to teachers who wish to study certain specified areas, and the ministry should have the right to determine what these areas are," he posited.

Turning to sick and casual leave, Thompson argued that a medical certificate should be presented, for even a day's sick leave granted, or an application should be made indicating the purpose of all informal leave required by a teacher.

"Casual leave should require an application with specific reasons given and not just personal business or family problems. The culture has encouraged teachers to take casual leave as an extra holiday entitlement," he continued.