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Getting a work-life balance

As we now know, relaxation for Education Secretary Charles Clarke is a round of mini-golf and a bag of fish and chips in Lowestoft.

But then Mr Clarke decided to head off for another coastal destination, leaving his family behind, to join the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers at their annual jamboree in Llandudno, north Wales.

Almost 4,000 teachers, and retired teachers, spent part of the Easter fortnight at conferences in Bournemouth (Association of Teachers and Lecturers), Harrogate (National Union of Teachers) or Llandudno.

But more than 500,000 others stayed away, intent on making the most of the life bit of their work-life balance.

Kirstie Watkins, 28, teaches a mixed Year 5 and 6 class at Christ Church Church of England junior, Bristol. She said the highlight of her holiday was a visit to a health farm. "It was very relaxing, flotation tanks, massages and having my nails done. I also did lots of shopping."

Ronan Dunne, a Year 6 teacher at St Gregory's Catholic primary, Liverpool, read a biography of Stalin and the new Gervase Phinn book.

He said: "I played my saxophone and flute. I played baseball with friends.

I do find the conferences deathly dull: while I agree with a lot of what is said, nothing decided ever really happens. I am not saying striking is the right way, but the unions need some way of making the Government pay a bit more attention."

Debbie Preece, 27, a reception and Year 1 teacher at St Laurence's Church of England primary, Ludlow, walked her parents' black Labrador. She said:

"I teach in a very secluded area. We are a rural school so some issues like the BNP canvassing in schools have not affected us but it is frightening that it is going on."

But neither Miss Watkins, Mr Dunne or Miss Preece managed to switch off entirely - all admitted either sneaking into school or doing some work at home: preparing school visits, displays or revising for the National Professional Qualification for Headship.

Dedicated teachers they may be. But you just have to question their commitment to mini-golf.

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