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Our headteacher has decided teachers and teaching assistants are to do playground duty every day, but breaktime is often when important staffroom conversations happen. Please do not advise we speak to the head as she is not willing to listen to the views of her staff.

Christina, Surrey

A This sort of autocratic leadership should have gone out with the Ark. There are a number of channels you should pursue: a grievance procedure if anyone is brave enough to be a test case; call in your local union official; through the governors and especially the staff governor. The governors should be horrified to hear of this management style. Pat, Brighton

A It might be wise to "uncouple" the situation faced by your teaching colleagues and the teaching assistants. No one wants to be elitist on this, but you have different contracts, status and claims to professionalism. A united front against a head who is over-assertive is all well and good, but you need to defend your professional interests first and foremost. If the head is encroaching into your conditions of service, you need to act independently, as teachers. John, Worthing

A What is really encouraging about the way you frame your problem is that you are including the teaching assistants. It's all too easy sometimes to play the "professional" card and drive a wedge between teaching and support staff. This would be a foolish tactic in your situation, with a head who is impervious to reasoned argument. In these circumstances the reflex of the autocrat is to "divide and rule". By standing united you are demonstrating that this won't happen. Stick together and get the unions involved. Sue, East Grinstead

A This situation can easily be resolved, but it concerns and surprises me that your head will not listen to the views of her staff. Teaching assistants are skilled and their impact is often undervalued. They have a working knowledge of a range of pupils so their input during playground duty can be invaluable. But they should not be taken for granted. Discuss a timetable with them so they can have a daily break within a weekly rota system that incorporates their usual timetable of support John, Cumbria

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