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5 things to think about this Christmas

1. Relax and enjoy it

Don't go into school or do any paperwork. Two days into next term, will it matter that you came in during the holiday? OK, if you must, then leave it till the very last minute before term starts. The Christmas break is unlike all the others: it flies by, and it's rarely relaxing, so you need to cut school work out of the equation altogether.

2. Drop in and say hello

Pop into one of the offices or other workplaces that serve you well and are open after schools close - the education welfare service or the minibus service centre. Don't talk shop. Take some sweets and a card. They may well be up to their necks in work that schools dumped on them at the end of term, but if you're sensitive to that, your gesture will be appreciated. The time will come when you need a favour ... not that you are doing it with that in mind, of course.

3. Remember others

On Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, visit a colleague or pupil who is in hospital, or who has been at home sick for a long time. Take cards and messages, and don't look at your watch. There is lots of evidence that people on long-term sick leave begin to feel cut off from the buzz and gossip and friendship. Now is the ideal time to reassure someone that they are not forgotten.

4. Be merry, but stay wise

Be really careful about drinking and driving. More than one headteacher has reaped the very public consequences of carelessness at this time of year. Typical is the case of a successful primary head with a clean licence who had just enough wine with a meal to take him over the limit. He was charged and lost his licence. The local newspaper story, with his contrite expressions of shame, was a salutary reminder of what a single error of judgment can do to someone who is committed to high standards and decent values.

5. Have a laugh, but don't be the butt ...

Christmas parties are great fun, but try not to get drawn into karaoke. Be assured that you are not nearly as good as you think you are. People will clap just because it's you that's doing it. Remember Dr Johnson? "... like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." (Yes, he was talking about something else, but let's not go there.)

Finally, be ready for the fool who punches you on the shoulder and says, "What's this about kids not being able to read and write, then?" The correct response is, "It's a bugger, isn't it? According to The Daily Mail, it's all to do with parents spending too much time at parties, instead of staying at home and reading to their children."

Have a great Christmas.

Send your suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at


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