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Kick out that costly therapy

Stress-laden teachers worn out by the strains of the job should try supporting their local football club.

The advice comes from Andrew Keep, Monmouthshire county council's new corporate director for lifelong learning, and a keen supporter of Colwyn Bay FC for the past 10 years.

"For just pound;6 I can spend 90 minutes venting my frustrations on the referee and linesmen. It's far better and cheaper than going to a therapist - although whether those poor match officials will agree with me is another matter," he says.

As leader of the consortium helping schools in south-east Wales implement the workload agreement and raise standards, father-of-two Mr Keep - on secondment from the headship of Prestatyn high school, Denbighshire - has a frenetic lifestyle.

Based in Cwmbran during the week, he makes the long and difficult commute home to Colwyn Bay at weekends.

"It was a family decision to come down here and give it a go for 12 months," says Mr Keep, whose 13-year headship at Prestatyn will finally end in November.

"Had the position of corporate director come up when I was in Prestatyn, I would not have applied and I wouldn't have been appointed if I wasn't based in the south-east."

Denbighshire's loss will be Monmouthshire's gain, it appears. Suzanne Nantcurvis, NASUWT national executive member for North Wales, says: "Andy Keep is very considered, very intelligent and quite visionary in his approach.

"I have always found him to be open, honest and quite popular with his staff. There are only seven secondary schools in Denbighshire and all the other heads have the highest regard for someone they have clearly missed this year."

Mr Keep will need to draw on all these qualities in his demanding new role, which will see him leading on schools, adult education, leisure services, libraries, cultural services, museums and youth services. "I'm going to have to learn quite quickly from colleagues, as I have not taken a conventional route into a corporate director role," he says.

"But I have been genuinely impressed by the quality of people I've worked with and come across in the front line. It was that which led me to apply and that is what I want to build upon."

Originally from Aylesbury, Mr Keep is a Cambridge graduate who decided on a career in education after working at a special school during university.

"I could have gone down the same route as my brother, who is a scientist.

In teaching you are working with people - that is the difference."

Having worked at schools in the Midlands, Andrew moved to Colwyn Bay in 1988 and was appointed head at Prestatyn four years later.

A keen sportsman who formerly played basketball and cricket, he made reference to London's successful Olympic bid in his job application.

"A London Olympics will have huge spin-offs on sport in this country before, during and after the Games. I'm from the South-east of England and my parents still live there - I'm going to be there."

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