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Dispel the myths

SO, school gates have slammed shut for six weeks as every head and teacher in the land embarks on the annual summer orgy of caravanning and sunseeking. Or so popular mythology would have it.

Though the truth about school working hours is generally very different - union surveys suggest a 56-hour week, equivalent to 42 hours every single week of the year - the public impression remains of a term-time, school-hours job. Teacher complaints are dismissed as whinging, yet probably put off many would-be recruits.

Part of the answer may lie in the experiment at a Nottingham school, where staff are rearranging their workloads using new technology. The scheme's consultant notes that few teachers have their own desk, computer or email access.

Giving teachers and heads the facilities and support taken for granted by office workers would help. But when the workload inquiry reports, it must simultaneously relieve overworked staff, protect most of the holiday perks which still attract recruits - and convince the rest of the country that teachers no longer enjoy a uniquely cushy number.

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