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Are you 'avin' a larrrrf?

Don't hold back the guffaws, says David Thomas. It'll help you survive ... literally

All new entrants to this noble profession should take note: a sense of humour is essential at all times in your new career. You should also find a school where the head enjoys a good laugh.

A study by the University of Maryland Medical Centre, Baltimore, has found that people with a well-developed sense of humour are less prone to cardiac problems and mental stress. Laughter seems to protect the heart.

The research team tested the humour of 300 people.

Dr Michael Miller said people should consider setting aside time each day to have a good laugh. Teachers should certainly take this seriously, though deciding where it is appropriate could pose problems. Giggling in the middle of an Ofsted classroom observation session or te head's assembly might not be the best time.

Dr Miller believes mental stress may be associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause inflammatory reactions that lead to a build up of fat and cholesterol in the coronary arteries, and ultimately a heart attack. Laughter counteracts this mental stress, so people who see the funny side of potentially stressful situations are less likely to have heart problems.

Laughter served me well during my headship years. I can say with certainty that people who can laugh cope better with the job than those who generally do not.

And even on the darkest day, or during the most boring course, there is always something to laugh or giggle about.

David Thomas is a retired primary head who lives in Leeds

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