Life’s hard enough as it is without polling day

COMMENT: Going above and beyond is all in a day’s work at QA

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With many of the schools closed for polling day last week, I find myself asking the same question I do every year.

Why do they need to use schools when there are many perfectly suitable church halls and community centres?

I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation as to why this disruption is necessary, but no-one seems to know what that is.

And they’re always banging on about how important attendance is. The children even get certificates now for how well they’ve avoided illness that year – sorry, I mean how many days they attended school.

Yet it’s okay for the government to throw in an extra day off for polling day.

If you’re a working parent, it’s hard enough trying to find care for your children for 12 weeks of the year, plus a handful of inset days, not to mention any unexpected snow days or sickness. That’s at least 13 weeks your child will be out of school every year, yet the legal minimum for annual leave is just 5.6 weeks, and even then it’s up to the employer as to whether that includes bank holidays. Even if you’re a working couple and you never take a day of holiday together, it still doesn’t quite cover it!

I’m no mathematician, but it seems like someone’s not quite getting their sums right over at Westminster.

Teachers generally get the brunt of things when it comes to anything to do with education – let’s face it, they are right there in front of us and we do like to shoot the messenger. We also love to have a good moan about how many holidays teachers get too, mainly because we’re jealous of their continuing student lifestyle – or so it seems from the outside at least.

Still, I think if I spent my working day with a room full of children I would need several weeks’ holiday to recover too. Plus, they’re in the same boat as parents when it comes to actually going away – restricted to those weeks of the year when the travel companies abuse our bank balance with extortionate prices that require a five-year minimum repayment plan.

The government wants us to work. We want us to work. With the cost of everything so high most of us have to work just to survive! So to a great extent we’re reliant on family and friends to help us out during these long holiday periods.

But what happens when you don’t have any family locally, or when your friends work or are parents too and in exactly the same boat?

Even during term-time a primary carer only has six hours within which to work before they have to look into paid after school care. There just aren’t enough flexible jobs to go around. There aren’t even enough jobs to go around full stop.

We’re well into the 21st century, yet we are working with a school timetable that is vintage to say the least.

There’s no easy solution here, though perhaps the government could make a start at bridging the gap. Maybe just four weeks summer holiday and one week at Easter, plus a rise in the minimum annual leave.

Or, just leave things as they are, as is the most likely conclusion.

But at least find somewhere else to stick your ballot boxes.