Headlines: August 4th, 2004

A scheme to give teachers in challenging schools a 30 day sabbatical for reinvigoration and refreshment produced the opposite result. Sabbaticals resulted in more work rather than less for the participating teacher. The added pressure came from the need to prepare for the sabbatical, including arranging work for the supply teacher who took over the role for 30 days, catching up after a sabbatical, and in some cases completing a sabbatical task after the end of the period of time out. The scheme was slow to get off the ground because of suspicion amongst many eligible teachers that sabbaticals would result in extra workloads.The sabbaticals involved information gathering and general research. Many focused on teaching and learning issues and whole school issues such as school management, ICT or curriculum development. The specific areas covered ranged from pastoral and child centred issues through to administration and management strategies. They also covered behaviour, special needs issues or matters associated with disadvantage.

An evaluation of the scheme found improvements in confidence, refreshment and self-esteem were reported in 87 per cent of sabbaticals. Sixty-four per cent reported increased motivation for the participating teacher. There was also a claim of raised skills and knowledge in 87 per cent of sabbaticals. Eighty three per cent of participating teachers reported changes in their own practice. Institutional outcomes for the whole school were reported in over 80 per cent of the sample, fulfilling the intention that sabbaticals bring benefits to schools and their pupils as well as to participating teachers.