School leaders are calling for teachers to be given sabbaticals to stop them burning out and remain motivated to stay in the profession.
Giving staff time away from the chalk face to take courses or retrain in a new area would help boost the status of the profession and make workers feel valued, according to some members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).
The call comes as Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced a £5 million sabbatical pilot which will give teachers the chance to do research, work in a relevant industry or work for the Government developing education policies.
The union is expected to debate a resolution on the issue at its annual conference in Liverpool this weekend, which calls on the NAHT’s executive to campaign for a sabbatical system for teachers who have worked in teaching for a set number of years.
Speaking ahead of the conference, the motion’s proposer, Kevin Baskill, told the Press Association: “It seems like a simple idea, but I think it would help to change the culture, and to value the profession.”
Mr Baskill, a retired primary school leader, said that early in his career he had been given the chance to work in early years education, taking a course that “completely changed my sense of direction and what I thought was important”.
He became a reception teacher and went into nursery education, adding that “it changed how I focused my priorities when I became a primary head”.
Mr Baskill, who is the NAHT’s London regional secretary, said: “Think of the money that’s spent on TV adverts, teacher training, even adverts on the sides of roads now. There’s a desperation to get new teachers.
“We ought to be thinking about how we keep the talent in teaching.”
He said that while money was important, teachers also needed to feel valued and that there was “someone looking after them”.
He suggested that money used for teacher training and supply budgets could be pumped into a sabbatical system, with school staff, including headteachers, given the chance to take time out at different stages of their career.
“I don’t see it as a chance just to have a long holiday,” Mr Baskill said.
“It is about remaining motivated, doing something outside the school, or linked to the school, where you could do some study, or retraining, and just have a different pattern to your life and a chance to reflect and engage in something different and go back even more motivated.
“I think that’s particularly important with headteachers because they are probably the most reluctant to leave the chalk face.”
He also suggested staff should be paid while on sabbatical.
In his speech to the NAHT conference, Mr Hinds will say: “I’m announcing today something that has been called for by the profession for some time – a new Ł5 million sabbatical pilot.
“This will allow more established teachers to do something else for a year whether that’s working in an industry relevant to their field or doing academic research – or even coming to DfE for a year to help shape our policies.”
Mr Baskill welcomed the move but said that it was only likely to benefit a small number of teachers at this stage.